The journalist Masha Gessen has resigned from the board of the free expression group PEN America, after a panel on the group’s World Voices Competition that includes Russian writers was canceled in response to objections by Ukrainian writers.

The issues have been raised by Artem Chapeye and Artem Chekh, Ukrainian writers who’re additionally active-duty troopers within the Ukrainian military and who have been set to seem on a panel about writers as combatants on Could 13. After arriving in New York final week, the Ukrainians seen {that a} separate panel — about writers in exile, to be moderated by Gessen — included two Russians.

The Ukrainians instructed organizers that they might not take part if that panel (which additionally included the Chinese language novelist Murong Xuecun), went ahead, citing prohibitions in opposition to Ukrainians showing at occasions with Russians, in response to Suzanne Nossel, the CEO of PEN America. After efforts to current the panel outdoors the competition failed, Nossel stated, it was canceled.

Gessen, who makes use of gender-neutral pronouns, stated in a textual content message that they remained dedicated to the work of PEN, however may not keep on the board, the place they served as vice chairman.

“I very a lot imagine within the mission of PEN, however I needed to step down from management as a way to not be implicated in what I feel was a mistaken choice,” Gessen stated. Their resignation was first reported by The Atlantic.

Boycotts of Russian artists and tradition have been a subject of debate throughout the cultural world since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine final 12 months. However Nossel, who has spoken out in opposition to such boycotts, stated the query had but to totally attain PEN till now.

Ultimately spring’s competition, she famous, Andrey Kurkov, a novelist and the president of PEN Ukraine, had given the annual Freedom to Write lecture, after which he had an onstage dialog with the Russian American novelist Gary Shteyngart. However there have been no Russian writers within the competition, which was smaller than ordinary as a result of Covid issues.

Ukrainian writers’ issues about showing with Russians had been raised earlier this 12 months, Nossel stated, when discussions in regards to the competition started. However she stated PEN didn’t understand till the Ukrainian delegation had arrived in New York that they’d object to taking part not simply on a panel with Russians, however in a broader competition that included Russians in any of the almost 4 dozen occasions.

Reached by e-mail, Chapeye stated he believed that “a Ukrainian soldier can’t be seen underneath the identical ‘umbrella’ with Russian contributors for political / public picture causes.”

Requested about penalties for showing, he stated, “I feel the one consequence would have been my guilt earlier than all of the folks murdered and tortured by the Russian military.”

Gessen, who immigrated from the previous Soviet Union as a young person in 1981 and holds each Russian and American citizenship, has been a outstanding important voice in Russia, the place they returned in 1991 to work as a journalist. Their books embody “The Man With out a Face,” a 2012 biography of Vladimir Putin, and “The Future Is Historical past: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which gained the Nationwide Guide Award in 2017. In 2013, Gessen moved again to the US with their household, citing rising persecution of L.G.B.T.Q. folks.

The 2 Russians on the canceled panel, Ilia Veniavkin and Anna Nemzer, left Russia shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. Each are collaborators on the Russian Impartial Media Archive, a joint undertaking by PEN America and Bard School, which preserves the previous twenty years of labor by unbiased retailers, most of which have been shuttered or blocked by the Putin authorities.

In an interview, Nossel praised Gessen’s “large contributions” to PEN America, the place they’ve been on the board for 9 years. “It’s a giant loss,” Nossel stated. “But it surely felt like a no-win state of affairs.”

Gessen emphasised that they remained a member of PEN, and remained dedicated to the Russian Impartial Media Archive, which they spearheaded. The choice to cancel the panel, Gessen stated, “was a mistake, not a malicious act.”

“My objection is to not the Ukrainian contributors’ demand,” Gessen stated. “They’re preventing a defensive warfare by all means out there to them. My challenge is solely with PEN’s response.”