Ukraine: PEN urges peaceful solution to escalating violence

PEN members gather in a series of rolling meetings in Kiev, Warsaw, Bled and Stockholm to address the situation in Ukraine.

Following the escalation of  violence in Ukraine after the Russian occupation of Crimea, PEN International calls for dialogue between writers from all sides of the conflict, neighbouring countries, and at an international level. PEN seeks to find a peaceful solution through strengthening the freedom of the press and through amplifying the critical voices of intellectuals.

‘Military action rarely solves conflict, which should instead be resolved by peaceful dialogue and full respect for freedom of expression, in line with the PEN Charter,’ said PEN’s International President John Ralston Saul.

PEN International is taking the lead in organising meetings for writers to debate and build solidarity and foster dialogue:

On 24-25th April, a delegation of Russian PEN visited Kiev to participate in the forum “Ukraine-Russia: the Dialogue”, which brought together leading economists, scholars, artists, journalists, civic activists and human rights defenders. The forum served to show solidarity, to strengthen the ties between different groups from Russian and Ukrainian civil society, and “to counteract the information war that has been unleashed by the Kremlin.” Opening the conferenceExecutive Committee Member of the Russian PEN Centre Lyudmila Ulitskaya stated that representatives of Russian culture and the intelligentsia came to Kiev to demonstrate that they do not support the ‘aggressive policy of the state in regard to UkraineIt is not heroism but normal behaviour of decent people’. The renowned Russian writer joined leading Ukrainian PEN authors, including Andrei Kurkov, in expressing hope that common sense will help intellectuals of both countries to defeat aggressive nationalism.

From 4th to 7th May, a regional PEN conference is took place in Warsaw, organised by Polish PEN and attended by PEN Centres from Ukraine and Russia, together with German, Finnish, Swedish, Norway, Belarus and Slovakia PEN Centres, as well as Jarkko Tontti, PEN’s International Treasurer.

We express our solidarity with Ukrainians who are defending the independence and unity of their own country’, stated Adam Pomorski, president of Polish PEN. ‘Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect among nations; they pledge themselves, in accordance with our charter, to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world.’

From 7th to 10th May,  PEN International’s  Writers for Peace Committee will met in Bled, Slovenia.  The committee has an international scope and has dealt with peace issues since the Cold War years. In its annual meeting it will deal with issues from all continents, but with a specific focus on the current Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Attended by delegates of both Ukrainian and Russian PEN Centres, the committee will define steps forward in the search for peace and solidarity with writers who are suffering as a result of conflict. Centres from around the world will take part in the debates, as will delegates such as the International Secretary of PEN, Hori Takeaki, and several members of the PEN International Board.

'We strongly appeal to all sides to decline any violence or military intervention. We call upon them to respect the territorial unity and sovereignty of Ukraine, the right of the Ukrainian people to decide their own future and to respect the freedom of expression of all people in Ukraine and in their own countries.' said Slovenian writer Tone Peršak, chair of PEN’s Writers for Peace Committee.

After these three major forums, a gathering of prominent Ukrainian and Russian writers will be held by Swedish PEN in Stockholm on 9th June. After a full day debate, focusing on the conflict in Ukraine as well as the increasing number of imprisoned and persecuted journalists in Russia, a public event will unite the participants with leading Swedish writers and civil society leaders. The gathering will be attended by writers from several PEN Centres, as well as PEN’s International president and treasurer, John Ralston Saul and  Jarkko Tontti, along with  PEN International Executive Director, Carles Torner.

From Kiev, Warsaw, Bled, Stockholm: the PEN community calls for a peaceful resolution of the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine. Four European cities stand as four buttresses to support the solidarity of writers in Ukraine and Russia and all around Europe in the search for peace, in maintaining the doors of dialogue open amidst the winds of war, and struggling for freedom to write as a necessary tool for dialogue and reconciliation.


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The PEN Community calls for a Peaceful Resolution of the Current Crisis in Ukraine
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