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New Twist As Russian PEN Center Claims Alexievich Was Not A Member

Nobel prizewinner Svetlana Alexievich (file photo)
Nobel prizewinner Svetlana Alexievich (file photo)

An exodus from the Russian PEN Center took a new turn when the organization claimed that 2015 Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich could not have quit because she was never a member.

But a former member whose expulsion from the group prompted several prominent members to quit in protest countered that assertion, publishing screenshots in which Alexievich is identified as a member.

Alexievich said on January 11 that she was leaving the Russian PEN Center to protest the expulsion of journalist and activist Sergei Parkhomenko.

Other members had quit earlier over the Parkhomenko's ouster, saying that the organization was no longer acting as an advocate for writers and free expression.

In a January 16 statement, the Russian PEN Center said that Alexievich had "never been a member of the Russian PEN, so her declaration of leaving it sounds bizarre."

Parkhomenko posted several screenshots from the Russian PEN Center on Facebook as evidence that Alexievich was a member.

Formally, Parkhomenko was expelled for "provocative activity," but he says he was punished for accusing the group of 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 charges, and the United States, the European Union, Amnesty International, and others in the West have condemned his arrest, trial, and imprisonment.

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