She added that she had wanted to leave earlier but had stayed in hopes of strengthening what she calls the progressive camp.
"A lot of people had already left, including [novelist] Lyudmila Ulitskaya and [satirist] Vladimir Voinovich, and I wanted to leave," she said. "But they asked me to stay with them, because it seemed we could defeat this dark wing. But, unfortunately, that did not happen."
Alexievich quit the PEN Center the day after prominent Russian writer Boris Akunin, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, announced he was leaving, saying the organization does not defend persecuted writers and has "nothing in common" with the global PEN movement.
The defection of some its most prominent figures calls into question the future of a home for Russian and other ex-Soviet writers that has at times been one of Russia's most respected voices of dissent. The center's members notably protested the second war in Chechnya, when Putin used overwhelming military force beginning in 1999 to retake the breakaway republic at the cost of high civilian casualties and mounting accusations of rights abuses.
The Russian PEN Center was founded in 1989, the year the Iron Curtain came down, as a means for writers in Russia to connect with peers around the world who belong to the international PEN network, which itself dates back to 1921. The acronym PEN stands for the society of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists, and members affirm their allegiance to freedom of expression as a value that transcends national loyalties.
The elected leadership of the Moscow center has denied any claims of a split in the organization and placed sole blame for the discord on Parkhomenko, the initiator of the Sentsov petition.
"We in the PEN Center are more than 400 people, and there is only one Parkhomenko," the center's president, Yevgeny Popov, told RFE/RL's Russian Service on January 11. "He was expelled in strict accordance with the Charter of the Russian PEN Center, which stipulates that members can be expelled for acts discrediting the organization and acts against its members."
Popov accused Parkhomenko of tricking other PEN members into signing the petition requesting a pardon for Sentsov.
"Those who are with him are perhaps 10 people, 20, and they brainwash others," Popov said. "Intellectuals are the kind of people who, when somebody calls them and says, 'Will you sign a letter?' they say, 'What about?' And when the answer is 'To support someone who has been offended,' they immediately say, 'Sure, I'll sign it.'"
Many of the writers who have quit the Moscow PEN Center say the real fight is over the club's identity.
"I came into the PEN Center in the early 1990s when there was a completely different social and political climate and it seemed very appropriate that there was such a wonderful, international organization engaged in a noble cause of protecting all who are persecuted for their words, letters, pictures, and so on," writer Lev Rubinstein, who quit over Parkhomenko's expulsion, told RFE/RL.
But he says the PEN Center today is no longer the organization he joined.
"It has become conciliatory, conformist, even in a sense servile," he said.
Other writers say the atmosphere at the PEN Center today reminds them of the Soviet-era Writers' Union, whose members received state benefits only so long as they served the state's interests.
More than 30 members of the Russian PEN Center have demanded that the organization hold an extraordinary meeting and cancel the decision to exclude Parkhomenko.