As members of PEN Ukraine, writers in a variety of languages and representing a number of nationalities, and recognizing that, in a time of war, all who work in cultural fields bear a special responsibility both to culture itself and to the lives of those under siege, we would like to address the international intellectual community.
Ever since February 24th, when Russia launched a full-scale war against our country, we’ve been receiving daily requests to engage in dialogue with Russian intellectuals on the question of reconciliation. At the same time, a number of our colleagues abroad have reacted harshly to our call for a boycott of Russian culture. This reaction only serves to distract the world’s attention from the war crimes being committed daily by Russia in its war against Ukraine.
Our concern is that, in Russia’s totalitarian society, culture is an instrument of influence and propaganda, and can be used to obscure the countless war crimes being committed by Russia against Ukraine. Today, in the name of “Russkiy Mir,” Russian soldiers are murdering civilians, bombing hospitals, elementary schools, theaters, libraries, and universities, destroying not only Ukrainian culture but also the cultures of the many nationalities living in Ukraine.
We remember those few individual representatives of Russian culture who, eight years ago, when Russia occupied Crimea and a part of our eastern territories, stood up in defense of Ukrainian territorial integrity. We also value the support of those who speak out against the war today. While we ourselves have often expressed our support for those writers, scholars, and human rights advocates who’ve openly opposed the Kremlin, we have to assert that, as long as bombs and missiles are falling on us, dialogue about reconciliation is impossible.
Today, and until that moment when the last Russian soldier has left Ukrainian territory, the only appropriate subject for our discussions with the international intellectual community must be about the need for an immediate cessation of Russia’s war crimes, not about the merits her culture.
What’s going on?
- Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, supported by 71% of Russians, is ongoing. On 16 March, the UN International Court of Justice ordered Russia to immediately stop hostilities in Ukraine. Expectedly, Russian authorities ignored the order.
- The situation in some cities of Ukraine became catastrophic. In blockaded Mariupol (a city of 400,000 people in Donetsk region) Russians destroyed 90% of buildings. On 16 March, Russians dropped a heavy bomb on Drama Theater in the heart of Mariupol, where hundreds of people, including children, had taken shelter. Their fate is still unknown.
- In occupied areas Russian invaders are trying to install fake organs of authority and continue kidnapping of mayors, journalists, and activists.
Russian crimes against media
- At a time when the Kremlin persecutes independent journalism in Russia, it also crushes it in the war against Ukraine. Russian troops bombard Ukrainian cell towers, shell vehicles with PRESS signs, wound and rob journalists. International humanitarian law or fundamental moral principles mean nothing to them. Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ) reported that since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the occupants have attacked 35 journalists. In this report PEN Ukraine will be conducting a weekly monitoring of all crimes the invader perpetrates against representatives of independent Ukrainian and international media. The material will be updated regularly.
PEN Ukraine webpage on war
PEN Ukraine launched one page with the latest news and materials on Russia’s war against Ukraine with information on the situation in Ukraine, links on important materials and information resources, petitions, addresses, the list of editions about Ukraine to read in English, and books by Ukrainian authors recommended for translation. The page is being continuously updated with the latest news and links. Go to the page and share with colleagues: war.pen.org.ua.