In 2014 the Russian Federation violated international regulations, starting a war in Ukraine. In 2022 Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine.
We, the participants of the VI Regional meeting of PEN centres in Uzhhorod, wish to express our solidarity with the Ukrainian cultural community, Ukrainian authors and the Ukrainian people who are defending their independence, their right to peaceful existence, and freedom of expression.
Our meeting was not only an opportunity to express solidarity across borders, but also a chance to get to know each other so that we might better understand the situation faced by temporarily displaced people in Ukraine, the work of Ukrainian aid organisations and volunteers, sheltering the temporarily displaced people and children in need. Members of PEN Ukraine are themselves often part of these communities.
We express our deep admiration for the ability of Ukrainian society to organise itself and for the great dedication of volunteers. We are deeply moved by the personal stories of the writers, human rights defenders, and humanitarian aid volunteers we witnessed at the meeting. We want to tell our PEN members and their communities not only about the suffering, but also about the heroism of the ordinary people of Ukraine.
While we realise that words alone cannot stop the violence of the Russian aggressor, it is our duty as people of letters to speak the truth. That is why we are reminding you, and will continue to remind you, that it is vital to use words that describe situations accurately and honestly and to avoid language that masks or camouflages reality.
We must not be afraid to unmask the lies and half-truths spread around the world by Russia’s propaganda networks. Let us not refer to the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine as a “conflict”, “special operation”, “crisis”, “civil war”, or even as “the war in Ukraine”. It is unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression against the Ukrainian people that started in 2014 with the Russian occupation of Crimea, some parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Ukrainians have the right to defend themselves.
Let us discard attempts to equate the suffering of innocent victims with those of perpetrators. We express our support for Ukrainian prisoners of the Kremlin and all those in different countries, especially in Belarus, who have suffered as a result of their active stance against autocracy, or because of their solidarity with Ukraine.
We have to remember that the imperial stereotype of “the great Russian culture” has served not only as a propaganda tool but also as a weapon against suppressed Ukrainian culture, as well as against the culture of other colonized nations. Nowadays it has one more aim: to distract our attention from the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed daily by the Russian military. Let the representatives of Russian culture show its greatness by inspiring Russian citizens to mobilize to stop the ongoing war crimes and end this war.
We must stand up for truth and justice. We believe in freedom of expression and justice. Let us demand the trials of war criminals.
Let us call for an immediate and unconditional end to the war by the Russian Federation.
August 25-26, Uzhhorod