An Appeal to the International PEN-Club in Defence of Dmitry Vasilets

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Dear colleagues! Both you and us had to more than once raise our voices in the defence of writers, poets, and journalists. Having taken the responsibility for those who remain true to freedom of speech, we use any available means – we appeal to the Russian public, we make statements, we write open letters to representatives of the authorities. However, in this case it is about the return of freedom, and, perhaps, even about the rescue of the life of a journalist who is a citizen of another state – Ukraine.

In recent years relations between Russia and Ukraine became not very simple. Being afraid that the voice of a Russian public organization will not be heard in Ukraine, we made the decision to ask for the help of the International PEN club.

The Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Vasilets (who was born in 1986) was arrested in November, 2015, on the charge of – “informational support of terrorism” (article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Dmitry worked at the Ukrainian TV channel “17” and in his work he criticized the actions of the Ukrainian government. However, for us it doesn’t matter that fact that it is especially  the Ukrainian power that was criticized by him. For us it only matters that he suffered for the freedom of speech. And also that in his public statements this journalist called the representatives of his profession for responsibility, and politicians – to not incite hatred in society.

Before his detention Dmitry Vasilets was the author and host of the “Museum of Information War” and “What the Media is Silent About” programs on Channel 17. And also he was the first deputy head of the Public Council at the Ministry of Information Policy of Ukraine. Dmitry was arrested because of his trip to Donetsk, where he spent three working days. At this time the cities of Donbass were overflowed by journalists of different countries, and if all of them were arrested, the structure of many world publications would strongly become thinner. Vasilets was accused of allegedly helping to establish the Novorossiya-TV youtube-channel. At the same time he wasn’t arrested immediately upon returning from his working trip, but nearly a year later.

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The charge brought to him still hasn’t been proven. We ask the International PEN club to also pay attention to the fact that at the same time on the territory of Donbass there was a large number of Ukrainian journalists. From here it is possible to draw a conclusion: the existence or lack of charges depends on the policy that the journalist adheres to in his work: he dares to speak out against the illegal-from-his-point-of-view actions of the power, or not. Vasilets dared.

Without judging the Ukrainian power, we insist on the fact that Vasilets in Donbass fulfilled his professional duty. In favour of this thought speaks also the fact that the Ukrainian court still didn’t pronounce a verdict on his case! However the measure of restraint allowing to hold this journalist behind bars, the court prolongs regularly.

We appeal to the International PEN club: let’s try to help return freedom to Dmitry Vasilets, or at least to assist the improvement of his conditions in jail!

It can be done, describing to the European community the truth about this courageous person, and by recognizing Vasilets as a political prisoner.

The press service of the Russian PEN-centre

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