Address to the participants of 83rd PEN International Congress in Lviv

Mykola Semena

Dear participants of 83rd PEN International Congress in Lviv,

Ukrainian writers, journalists, cinematographers and artists, especially those in the
occupied Crimea, consider it very correct and timely that the 83rd PEN International
Congress is taking place in Ukraine. The main topic of the Congress, “Reclaiming
Truth in Times of Propaganda”, is now urgent here in Ukraine as never before. Today,
due to Russian aggression, the two Ukrainian people, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars
– as well as the entire Ukrainian political nation – have been victimized by violent
Russian propaganda, which seeks to cover the real purposes of aggression, transition
of the nuclear state to the policy of force and territorial seizures, seeks to justify the
violation of international law, to damp the international response to large-scale
killings and terrorizing the civilian population.

Crimea is the territory of ethnogeny of Crimean Tatars, their motherland and the place
of their national self-determination. Now this territory is annexed by Russia. In the
two regions of Donbas the legal Ukrainian administration is destroyed; there is an
ongoing terrorist war against the local civilians. In Crimea and those regions of
Donbas national education is destroyed; there is a fierce russification, extended
militarization, military training of youth in schools and universities. False propaganda
distorts history, glorifies only one nation, attacks the basics of democracy, stirs up the
feelings of international and interreligious enmity. Independent media are destroyed,
freedom of speech and meetings is canceled, all kinds of peaceful protests are treated
as terrorism and extremism, civil activists are thoroughly repressed.

In Crimea, where I worked as journalist for more than 30 years, there are forged
criminal accusations and court sentences against the authors of truthful articles and
reports. Russian unlawful investigative bodies and cours disregard our appeals to
freedom of speech, freedom of discussions and the right to personal opinion and
outlook. The population of Crimea is, in fact, barred from truth, including blockage of
various informational web resources and jamming of Ukrainian radio and TV stations.
Oleg Sentsov, well-known film director, had been sentenced to 20 years of prison for
resisting the occupation of his native Crimea. Ukrainian journalist Roman Suschenko
is falsely accused of espionage in Moscow. In Crimea even social network users are
persecuted for expressing their opinions, or even for sharing the texts of other authors.
Dozens of Crimean journalists and civil activists have been already arrested and
imprisoned. In fact, there is now a local relapse to Stalin’s repressions of 1930s. I am
deeply grateful to the members of Ukrainian and other PEN centers who supported
me during the investigation and court trial against myself for my participation in the
discussion of the status of Crimea at Radio Liberty subsidiary website. I considered
and will consider my duty to observe the standards of journalism, to write nothing but
truth and defend everybody’s right to the freedom of speech. We all in Crimea highly
appreciate your support and your demands to stop the repressions.

The aggressive dictators, unfortunately, count not only on their military force, but also
on weakness and slowness of the European and world democracy. That is why world
democratic movements have to understand that Russian dictatorship is a threat not
only for Ukraine, but for the entire Europe. In fact, it moves the entire world closer to
the third world war. Ukraine today is the forefront of our struggle for democracy, and
we cannot afford to lose it, because it may entail total disruption of international law
and democratic movements, repetition of the tragedies people endured in the 20 th
century, numerous and unjustified sacrifices. The events in Crimea and Donbas show
that the world is now on the verge of new chauvinistic, inhuman movements. We
have to prevent the repetition of the mass tragedies of the last century, which harmed
many global nations.

Thus, world democracy in the 21 st century cannot be weak. World democratic
movements, all progressive people should join their efforts in order to stop the
aggressor, compel him to leave the unlawfully annexed territories, return Crimea to its
native people, Crimean Tatars, for creation of their national and territorial autonomy.
The aggressor should also stop militarization of politics, education and civil life,
secure freedom of speech and other freedoms, stop unlawful repressions against
journalists and civil activists, release political prisoners.

In addition to other measures, world democratic movement should create an
international monitoring committee on Crimea, which would document the ongoing
violations of human rights and international law in Crimea, and bring this case into
international court of law.

This should be done, because we at Crimea believe that democracy is actually
stronger than any aggressor, any weapon, any dictatorial regime. At the same time,
you should know that up to now, for almost four years (and not many wars in the
world history continued that long), are the victims of aggression, and we are very
sensitive to the factor of time, factor of wasted life, factor of ruined perspectives,
factor of life and death, factor of crippled life of the entire generation of Crimean
people, who are now subjected to false and aggressive propaganda, compulsory
military training, zombification by Russian propagandist media, persecutions and
repressions. We have no other hope but for your support, for the strength of world
democracy, for your effective steps in order to stop the aggressor and bring us
freedom.

Mykola Semena,
Ukrainian journalist, commentator of Radio Liberty, reporter of the all-Ukrainian
newspaper “Day”, member of Ukrainian PEN-center
18.09.2017