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British peace activists condemn charges against leading Ukrainian pacifist

Yurii Sheliazhenko in front of a peace poster

British peace activists condemn charges against leading Ukrainian pacifist

British pacifists have said that charges brought against a leading Ukrainian pacifist are ludicrous, untrue and politically motivated.

The Ukrainian security services raided the home of Yurii Sheliazhenko, general secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, on Thursday (3 August 2023).

He has been charged with “justifying Russian aggression” – despite his longstanding and outspoken opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. If convicted, he could face a lengthy prison sentence.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), Britain’s leading pacifist campaign group, have written to the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK to protest against the treatment of Yurii Sheliazhenko and to call for all charges against him to be dropped immediately. The PPU has long worked with pacifists around the world, including Russian pacifists arrested and imprisoned by the Putin regime for opposing the invasion of Ukraine.

In response to the charges, Yurii Sheliazhenko said it was “absurd” to accuse pacifists of being apologists for war, “especially Putin’s cruel war against Ukraine with these bombings of my city.” He lives in Kyiv, and has remained there since the war began.

While raiding his home, the Ukrainian security services removed paperwork and computer equipment, some of which was being used to prepare support for conscientious objectors involved in legal proceedings.

The charges were similarly condemned by pacifists and human rights campaigners in Ukraine, Russia, Germany, the USA and around the world. Alexia Tsouni, president of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, has asked for an urgent meeting with the Ukrainian government. German pacifists are planning to demonstrate outside the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin, where they have also demonstrated outside the Russian embassy.

The PPU pointed out that Yurii Sheliazhenko has long condemned Russian aggression, including on the day that the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. He has backed anti-Putin peace activists calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops and supported acts of non-co-operation with the invaders. He also opposed conscription and the Zelensky government’s friendship with NATO.

Yurii has made several online videos from his home in Kyiv during the war, insisting that there can be no military solution to the conflict and calling for nonviolent resistance and negotiations. He has spoken via Zoom at peace group meetings in various countries, including events organised by the Peace Pledge Union and other groups in the UK.

It may be these videos, and the work of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement in supporting conscientious objectors, that has led the Ukrainian authorities to attempt to silence pacifists by laying dubious charges against Sheliazhenko.

The Ukrainian Pacifist Movement is the Ukrainian section of War Resisters’ International (WRI). The PPU is the British section, while the Movement of Conscientious Objectors in Russia is the Russian section. The network includes pacifist and anti-militaristi groups from over 50 countries in six continents.

Symon Hill, campaigns manager of the Peace Pledge Union in the UK, said, "I am proud to call Yurii Sheliazhenko a friend and comrade. He is an inspiration. While his country is being invaded and his government is pushing conscription, Yurii has been a rare and courageous voice for different values. No doubt it would have been a lot easier for him to shut up. But like other members of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, he has refused to be quiet.

He added, “It is not enough simply to say that the human rights situation is worse in Russia than in Ukraine. Of course it is, which is why we continue to support our fellow peace activists in Russia. That does not mean that we can overlook the denial of human rights in Ukraine, or the ludicrous claim that Ukrainian pacifists are justifying Russian aggression. I cannot imagine Yurii justifying any sort of aggression."

The PPU insisted that people have a right to oppose their government in wartime without being falsely accused of supporting the other side in the war. They added that Zelensky could not seriously claim that he is defending democracy while he denies pacifists the right to free speech.

"I will not run from my home and country," wrote Yurii Sheliazhenko in a message to supporters on Sunday (6 August). "If I will be sent to prison for pacifism, I will find a way to be useful for peace-loving Ukraine in prison too."


You can contact the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK to object to the charges against  Yurii Sheliazhenko. You can email the embassy at, phone them on 020 7727 6312 or write to them at 60 Holland Park, London W11 3SJ.