2015 Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich has quit the Russian PEN Center as part of a widening split within the rights organization.
Alexievich said on January 11 that she was leaving the organization to protest the expulsion of journalist and activist Sergei Parkhomenko.
Her statement came a day after prominent Russian writer Boris Akunin, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, announced he was leaving the Russian PEN Center, saying that the organization did not defend persecuted writers and so had "nothing in common" with the global PEN movement.
The previous day, poet Lev Rubinshtein and writer Aleksandr Ilichevsky also quit the group to protest the expulsion from the group of prominent journalist and activist Sergei Parkhomenko.
Formally, Parkhomenko was expelled from the group for "provocative activity," but he wrote on the website of Ekho Moskvy radio that he was punished for criticizing the Russian PEN Center for failing to support Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov, who is serving 20 years in a Russian prison after being convicted of plotting terrorist attacks.
Sentsov, a native of Crimea, was a vocal opponent to Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014. He denies the allegations, and the United States, the European Union, Amnesty International, and others in the West have condemned his arrest, trial, and imprisonment.
Speaking to the Interfax news agency on January 10, Russian PEN Center President Yevgeny Popov denied claims of a split in the organization, saying there are more than 400 members of the organization and "only one Parkhomenko."
Akunin participated in a wave of antigovernment protests in 2011-12 that were prompted largely by allegations of widespread fraud in a December 2011 parliamentary election and opposition to Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in 2012.