ACTION ALERT: Yurii Sheliazhenko: Pacifist in the Pillory

September 3rd, 2023 - by Susann Witt-Stahl / Junge Welt

After a Raid by Ukrainian Secret Service,
Peace Activist Subjected to Further Repression
Susann Witt-Stahl / Junge Welt

BERLIN (August 30, 2023) — The Ukrainian peace activist Yurii Sheliazhenko is being subjected to repression by the Kiev authorities. After the SBU secret service forcibly gained access to his apartment on Thursday and confiscated computers, telephones and documents, the 42-year-old scientist spoke up for the first time on Saturday: “For a year the SBU secretly monitored me and tried to establish connections to Russian agents,” said the convinced pacifist in a ten-minute video speech. “They didn’t find anything, but they are still convinced I’m an enemy.“

Yurii Sheliazhenko is the chairman of the “Ukrainian Pacifist Movement”, which was founded in Kiev in 2019. The organization is a member of the International Peace Bureau (IPB), which includes more than 300 international organizations from over 70 countries. Sheliazhenko is also a board member of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (EBCO), the US-based international anti-war network World Beyond War, and the IPB Council.

Investigators want to bring Sheliazhenko to justice for “justifying Russian aggression,” under a rubber paragraph that was added to Ukraine’s criminal code in March 2022, facilitating the criminalization of peace and human rights activists. The only “incriminating evidence“ cited is the “Peace Agenda for Ukraine and the World,“ which the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement decided at its meeting on the International Day of Peace on September 21, 2022 and sent to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with an accompanying letter.

Absurdly, the statement condemns the Russian invasion. In addition, Sheliazhenko has repeatedly praised pacifists in Belarus and Russia, “who help people to escape Putin’s meat grinder,“ as his most recent statement put it.

The prosecutors will have come to the scene because its peace agenda does not name Russia as the sole culprit for the escalation and calls for an immediate “ceasefire, peace talks and serious efforts to correct tragic mistakes committed by both parties to the conflict”.

Sheliazhenko is committed to a neutral Ukraine and has repeatedly spoken out against NATO fueling the conflict and arms supplies from the West. The criticism of the „scandalous disregard“ of the human right to conscientious objection to military service, which is also contained in Sheliazhenko’s peace agenda, is likely to be a red flag — above all against the background of the growing war-weariness of the Ukrainian population.

“We remind the Ukrainian government that pacifism is not a crime in democratic states and demand that the charges against Yurii Sheliazhenko be dropped immediately,“ read a joint press release by EBCO and four other peace organizations on Friday. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms all harassment and all attempts at intimidation against him,“ it said.

Sheliazhenko has also faced fierce hostilities from Ukrainian nationalists, who are calling for tougher action against the “descendant of Stalin’s communists.“ People who have fallen into blind hatred tend to have a “distorted perception of reality“: “They see enemies everywhere, just as some madmen see evil spirits.“

The SBU summoned Sheliazhenko for interrogation this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. If convicted by a court, he faces up to five years in prison and confiscation of his property. Sheliazhenko does not want to bow down and announced further civil disobedience: “If I go to prison for pacifism, I will find a way to be useful to the peace-loving Ukraine there too.”

Yurii Sheliazhenko Speaks on
Being Prosecuted for Promoting Pacifism

World BEYOND War

ACTION ALERT: Tell the Ukrainian Government to
Drop Prosecution of Peace Activist Yurii Sheliazhenko

World BEYOND War

Yurii Sheliazhenko has been formally charged by the Ukrainian government with the crime of “justifying Russian aggression.” The evidence is this statement, which explicitly condemns Russian aggression.


To: Ukrainian Government
We call on you to drop any legal proceedings against Yurii Sheliazhenko, and to respect human rights, the right to conscientious objection, and the right to freedom of speech. The absurdity of prosecuting someone for justifying Russian war-making on the basis of a statement in which he has explicitly condemned Russian war-making, is matched by the absurdity of waging war in the name of freedom and democracy while engaging in this sort of harassment of citizens. We urge you to do better.