Sign the petition: Demand Donald Trump hold Vladimir Putin to international standards of free speech

Photo: REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov, retrieved from

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Trump,

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, join PEN America in urging you to raise the critical issue of the growing number of political prisoners held in Russia during your discussions with President Vladimir Putin at the summit scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki, Finland. In particular, we ask that you raise the case of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Oleg’s current situation is dire, as he has been on a hunger strike since May 14, 2018. We are deeply concerned that if progress is not made on Oleg’s case very soon, his life will be endangered.

Oleg Sentsov, the recipient of the 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, was detained in May 2014 in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. On August 25, 2015, Oleg was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His trial has been condemned by numerous governments and human rights organizations as politically motivated, likely in retaliation for his outspoken criticism of the Russian occupation of Crimea.

On May 14, Oleg declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” He has stated he is willing to die to achieve this goal.

Oleg’s case has garnered support from around the world. In February, PEN America coordinated a global day of action for Oleg that saw events held in 24 cities across 16 countries. And in June more than 50 writers, artists, and activists signed a letter to President Putin calling for Oleg’s immediate and unconditional release.

We were heartened to see the June 18 statement from the State Department that expressed concern for Oleg and a number of other political prisoners in Russia. We believe that your meetings with President Putin represent a critical opportunity to raise Oleg’s case and that of all political prisoners in Russia. We emphasize the urgency of Oleg’s situation in particular; his condition is grave and it is not clear how much longer he can survive. We hope you will take this opportunity to help save his life.


  1. Svetlana Alexievich, Belarusian PEN, Nobel Prize in Literature (2015)
  2. Amnesty International USA
  3. ARC (Artists at Risk Connection)
  4. Uladzimir Arlou, PEN Belarus
  5. Alhierd Bacharevic, writer
  6. Liavon Barščeuski, PEN Belarus
  7. Adrian Basora, Former US ambassador to The Czech Republic
  8. Andrei Bastunets, chairperson of Belarussian Association of Journalists
  9. Ales Bialiatski, Chairman Human Rights Center Viasna, winner of the 2011 Human Rights
  10. Defenders Award by the US Department of State
  11. Prof. Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Georgetown University
  12. Eric Bjornlund, President, Democracy International
  13. Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia, American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC
  14. Viachaslau Bortnik, Belarusian American human rights defender
  15. Tsikhan Charniakevich, Union of Belarusan Writers
  16. Center for Civil Liberties
  17. Siarhiej Dubaviec, PEN Belarus
  18. Andrej Dynko, editor of Nasha Niva, Belarus
  19. European Film Academy
  20. Natallia Fedarenka, President, Belarusan-American Association
  21. Aleksandr Feduta, political expert
  22. Jamie Fly, Senior Fellow and Director, Future of Geopolitics, Asia Program, German Marshall
  23. Fund of the United States, Washington DC
  24. Free Russia Foundation
  25. The Georgian Association in the USA
  26. Carl Gershman, President, The National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC
  27. Yana Goncharova, RosUznik
  28. Melinda Haring, Atlantic Council and Foreign Policy Research Institute, Washington DC
  29. Hungarian American Coalition
  30. IPHR (International Partnership for Human Rights)
  31. Joint Baltic American National Committee
  32. Natalia Kaliada, Co-founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre
  33. Alena Kazlova, PEN Belarus
  34. Kerry Kennedy, President, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  35. Andrej Khadanovich, PEN Belarus
  36. Nicolai Khalezin, Co-founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre
  37. David J. Kramer, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
  38. Les Nouveaux Dissidents
  39. Uladzimir Liankievič, PEN Belarus
  40. Media Initiative for Human Rights
  41. Ronald Meyer, Columbia University
  42. Luis Navarro, Eurasia Program Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute
  43. Tacciana Niadbaj, PEN Belarus
  44. Tanja Nyberg, Executive Director, Magnitsky Act Initiative
  45. PEN America
  46. PEN International
  47. Barys Piatrovich (Sachanka), chairperson of Union of Belarusan Writers, writer, translator
    Polish American Congress
  48. Tatsiana Reviaka, human rights defender
  49. Yuliya Tsimafeyeva, poet, translator
  50. Max Tuula, Producer, Marx Film
  51. Ukrainian Congress Committee of America
  52. Ukrainian PEN Center
  53. Alexandre Ulitsenak, editor of socio-political weekly independent newspaper SNplus, Svobodnye novosti plus

You can also sign the petition to free Oleg Sentsov here.