Ukraine: Open letter of solidarity, 24 February 2023

Ukraine: Open letter of solidarity, 24 February 2023 - Protection

Photo: Eli Wilson/ Shutterstock

We are writers, journalists, artists, human rights defenders, and those who stand in solidarity with them from around the world, including those who stay in Ukraine and made the difficult decision to leave our homes. On the one-year marking of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we write to express our collective condemnation of Russia’s multi-pronged war against the Ukrainian people and culture.

We grieve for the thousands of people killed as casualties of Russia’s campaign of violence. Russia’s war has sought to rupture Ukraine’s social fabric and culture, displacing millions of people in the destruction of cities and towns. We grieve for the deaths of writers, artists, journalists, cultural workers, and all who have cultivated Ukraine’s blooming culture and civil society sector.

In the last year, the space for free expression in Ukraine has been under attack by the Russian military’s actions. Russian soldiers have deliberately killed and kidnapped journalists and writers. Artists had to flee Ukraine in order to survive and continue their work. Russian bombardments have indiscriminately destroyed and damaged hundreds of places where Ukrainians experience culture and history, from community cultural houses to Holocaust memorial centres. There is evidence that the Mariupol Drama Theater, the 19th century Regional Youth Library in Chernihiv, and other remarkable cultural objects have been deliberately targeted. But Russia’s military actions since 24 February, 2022, represent only one prong in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

Alongside the deliberate destruction of human life and infrastructure, Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the existence of Ukrainian history and culture distinct from Russia. Since 2014, Russia has illegally occupied Crimea and parts of Luhansk and Donetsk, where writers, journalists, and activists have been jailed for their expression under the administration of the Russian Federation and armed separatist groups backed by Russia. Russian authorities have banned Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar language instruction and media and excavated a world heritage site to construct a revisionist history rooted in President Putin’s denial of other cultures.

Yet, despite being under attack, journalists, writers, artists, and cultural rights defenders continue to make art, write, and contribute to Ukrainian culture. Translators and members of the free press ensure that the realities of life in Ukraine and the impact of Russia’s violence are broadcast to the world. The diary entries, essays, poems, independent reporting, and street art are central to rebuilding in Ukraine when the war is over.

We, the signatories below, stand in solidarity with Ukraine’s culture and civil society sector and support its writers, artists, journalists, and cultural workers’ efforts to create life beyond Russia’s war. We reiterate our condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and call for the support of all journalists, cultural figures, and all unjustly persecuted in Ukraine for their expression.

Russia should be held accountable for its war crimes and human rights abuses. We urge the international community to support all Ukrainian efforts to investigate these crimes and ensure that the deliberate targeting of Ukrainian cultural heritage by the Russian regime is included in national accountability mechanisms as well as the international commission of inquiry for Ukraine.

We call on international governments to join us in solidarity by providing livelihood support to Ukrainian writers, artists, and journalists inside and outside the country and ensure that they can continue to create art wherever they are. Russia must be held accountable for its violations of cultural rights and human rights in Ukraine.



PEN America

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

International Press Institute (IPI)

PEN Belarus


Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ)

PEN International

Safe Havens | Freedom Talks

GITINYWA A.Louis, Advocate & Legal Consultant, Senior Partner at Kigali Attorneys Chamber LLP

PEN Uganda

Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network

Tanzania Artists Rights Organization (TARO)

Dr Piotr Rypson, Chair of ICOM Poland, Curator of Jewish Historical Institute, Adjunct Professor of Polish-Japanese Academy of Computer Technology

ICOM Poland National Committee

Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Penn Museum

PEN Canada

Christopher Merrill, Director, University of Iowa International Writing Program

Askold Melnyczuk, Arrowsmith Press

Artist Protection Fund

Russell Scott Valentino, Professor and Chair, Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Culture, Indiana University

Sarah D. Phillips, Professor of Anthropology and Director, R.F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute, Indiana University

Gianluca Del Gobbo, AVnode network for audiovisual and performing arts

Jan Moritz Onken, Conductor & Artistic Director The Silk Road Symphony Orchestra & The Silk Road Cultural Belt

Callias Foundation

dr Dominik Kuryłek, main curator of museum of Photography in Krakow

Esther Claassen, European Cultural Foundation

John Suarez, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba

P.E.N.- Québec

Octavio DelaSuaree, President, Academia de la Historia de Cuba en el Exilio

Claudia Genlui, Art Curator

Ileana Fuentes, Author, Translator, Columnist, CubaNet News, Member, PEN de Escritores Exilio Cubano

Guillermo G. Marmol, Chairman Board of Trustees, Center for a Free Cuba

Alexis Romay, Author

Carolina Barrero, Cuban human rights defender and pro-democracy activist

Cartoonists Rights Network International

Jillian C. York, Director for International Freedom of Expression, Electronic Frontier Foundation

ICOM Israel

Centrala Centre for Central and Eastern European art and artists

Ukrainian Cultural Foundation


English PEN

Dr. Katherine Schofield, Department of Music, King’s College London

Martin Bright, Editor-at-Large, Index on Censorship

Trans Europe Halles

Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, Cuban activist of the San Isidro Movement (MSI)

Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA)

Oregon Institute for Creative Research

Avant-Garde Lawyers

Freedom House

Ahmedur Tutul Chowdhury, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Shuddhashar FreeVoice

Human Rights Movement and Film Festival “Bir Duino – Kyrgyzstan”

Cambodian Center for Human Rights

Rohan Chakravarty, Cartoonist, India

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

DAKILA Philippines

Active Vista International Human Rights Festival

ArtLords and Wartists, Afghanistan

Sofia Karim, Turbine Bagh, London

Post-Museum, Singapore

Sunitha Janamohanan, Arts Manager and Educator, Singapore/Malaysia.

Sharmila Seyyid – Writer and Activist , Sri Lanka

Katrina Stuart Santiago, writer and critic, Philippines

People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action-PAGASAph

Stéphane Segreto-Aguilar,Head of International Development of ARTCENA, Circostrada Network Coordinator