A Ukrainian Pacifist Seeks Asylum in the US

January 31st, 2023 - by War Resisters International

Ukrainian War Resister Seeks Asylum in the US
War Resisters International

ACTION: Please “like” and share this YouTube video of Ruslan Kotsaba, President of the Ukrainian Pacifist movement, who is in NYC seeking asylum in the US as a war resister forced to flee Ukraine.

Please also email the Biden administration and the media offices of the US Immigration Service and the Department of Homeland Security. Request the government grant asylum to Ruslan, as well as to other Ukrainian male war resisters, who face 3-5 years in prison if they refuse conscription in Ukraine. If so inclined, write the media offices to request an interview for a social media post on asylum for war resisters from Ukraine.

Ruslan Kotsaba Seeks Peace in the US
War Resisters International

Ruslan Kotsaba was granted refugee status in New York, but for some reason still hasn’t received a social security number or other documents necessary for gainful employment.

Here is a link to an article about Ruslan, who was persecuted in Ukraine for refusing to fight his compatriots in Eastern Ukraine during the civil war preceding the Russian invasion.

After posting a YouTube video in 2015 to express his anti-war stance and call for a boycott of military operations in the Donbas, the government of Ukraine ordered him arrested, charged with treason and obstruction of the military, and put him on trial.

After sixteen months in pre-trial detention, the court sentenced Ruslan to 3.5 years in prison, a sentence and conviction that was overturned on appeal.

Later, a government prosecutor ordered the case reopened and Ruslan tried again. Shortly before the Russian invasion, however, the widely-publicized case against Ruslan was suspended. For a more detailed account of Ruslan’s persecution, scroll to the end of this email.

Please support Ruslan’s efforts to seek asylum and a social security number so he may work again. Ruslan is a journalist and photographer who  participated in the ANSWER Coalition’s anti-war demonstration in NYC on Jan. 14th.

Thank you in advance for your support of Ruslan!

In solidarity,
Marcy Winograd, Chair, Peace in Ukraine Coalition; Coordinator, CODEPINK Congress: Co-Chair, Foreign Policy Team, Progressive Democrats of America.

Here is a detailed account of Ruslan’s persecution in Ukraine

Jailed for 524 Days for
Refusing to ‘Mobilize’ for War

In January 2015, Ruslan Kotsaba published on the YouTube platform a video message to the President of Ukraine entitled “Internet Action: I refuse to mobilize,” in which he spoke out against participation in the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine and called people to renounce military service out of conscience.

The video had a wide public response. Ruslan Kotsaba was invited to give interviews and participate in TV programs by Ukrainian and foreign media, including Russian TV channels.

Shortly thereafter, officers of the Security Service of Ukraine searched Kotsaba’s home and arrested him. He was charged with crimes under part 1 of Article 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (high treason) and part 1 of Article 114-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (obstruction of the legal activities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations).

During the investigation and trial, Kotsaba spent 524 days in prison. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. The charges brought against him were based mainly on rumors, speculation and political slogans documented as testimonies of witnesses unknown to him.

The prosecutor asked the court to sentence Ruslan kotsaba to 13 years in prison with confiscation of property, a clearly disproportionate punishment. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine mentions the Kotsaba trial in its 2015 and 2016 reports [1].

In May 2016, the Ivano-Frankivsk city court passed guilty sentence. In July 2016, the Ivano-Frankivsk Region Court of Appeal fully acquitted Kotsaba and released him in the courtroom. However, in June 2017, the High Specialized Court of Ukraine overturned the acquittal and sent the case back for retrial.

The session of this court took place under pressure from the right-wing radicals from the “C14” organization, who demanded to put him in jail and attacked Kotsaba and his friends outside the courthouse. Radio Liberty reported about this conflict outside a courthouse in Kyiv under the headline “The Kotsaba Case: Will Activists Start Shooting?”, calling aggressive right-wing radicals “activists” [2].

Due to the lack of judges, pressure on the court and self-recusation of judges in different courts, the consideration of Kotsaba’s case was postponed many times. Since the trial have been dragging on for the sixth year, all reasonable terms for the consideration of the case have been violated and continue to be violated.

This is due to the fact that, when canceling the acquittal for procedural reasons, the High Specialized Court of Ukraine pointed out the need to study all the evidence presented by the prosecution, including the so-called evidence that the courts of first and appellate instance considered inappropriate or inadmissible.

Because of this, the current trial in the Kolomyisky City District Court of the Ivano-Frankivsk Region has been dragging on for two and a half years, during which time only 15 out of 58 prosecution witnesses have been questioned. Most of the witnesses do not appear in court on summons, even after the court’s decision on forced admission, and it is known that they are random people, not even local residents, who testified under pressure.

Right-wing radical organizations openly put pressure on the court, regularly make posts on social networks undermining the authority of justice, containing insults and slander against Kotsaba and calls for violent actions. During almost every court session, an aggressive crowd surrounds the court. Due to the attacks on Kotsaba, his lawyer and his mother on 22nd January and the 25th June attack in which his eye was injured,.

Ruslan, recovering in hospital after a gang of neo-Nazis threw chemicals into his face, damaging his eyes.