Yurii Sheliazhenko Speaks on Being Prosecuted for Pacifism

Pacifists are not enemies, and all images of enemy are fictional

By Yurii Sheliazhenko, World BEYOND War, August 5, 2023

Dear friends, greetings from Kyiv. I will be very brief, time is limited and today in Kyiv there were two air raid alerts because of the Russian criminal war against Ukraine.

Our pacifist declaration entitled “Peace Agenda for Ukraine and the World” is, of course, a document totally opposite to any justification of Russian aggression, which is explicitly denounced in this document.

Problem is that hatred is a such sort of sickness that sick people think they are healthy and others, peace-loving people are sick.

Such distortion in perception of reality is a well-known part of conflict escalation mechanics, “funnel of conflict.”

Professor Friedrich Glasl, whose models I used to analyze escalation of conflict between Russia and Ukraine in academic article on which the declaration is based, wonderfully explains mechanics of escalation in his monograph “Conflict Management” (by the way, I am thankful to him for a letter of support).

To explain it shortly and popularly, hatred and animosity is like partial insanity of generally quite sane people.

People infected by animosity tend to think that they are healthy and those who are not hating their enemies are sick.

Animosity distorts their perception of reality, they see enemies everywhere like some insane people see evil ghosts.

So-called expert of the Security Service of Ukraine wrote that the next phrase justifies Russian aggression: “A desire for peace is a natural need of every person, and its expression cannot justify a false association with a mythical enemy.” It is general commonsensical observation, nobody will question it when we are talking about Putin’s war machine making enemies, “foreign agents,” from opponents of his criminal militarist regime, denigrating them in propaganda, repressing them. I never thought this general truth will be illustrated by my own example, but here it is, an innocent pacifist treated as enemy because of fictional and socially harmful character of any image of enemy.

My “Peace Agenda…” was sent to President Zelensky, but his office chose to ask Security Service of Ukraine to persecute me as an enemy instead of considering the “Peace Agenda…” on the merits and giving proper reply, as any democratic leader should treat petitions.

According to law, Security Service of Ukraine is directly subordinated to the President Zelensky and he also is a guarantor of human rights according to Constitution of Ukraine, so, he bears final responsibility for violation of my human rights (and I know for certain that I am not a sole victim).

The court’s permission for search in my apartment is a collection of unfounded stereotypes of hatred hardly applicable to me.

During a year Security Service of Ukraine secretly surveilled me, tried to find any links with Russian agents, found nothing, but still convinced I am an enemy because of my advocacy of peace by peaceful means, of ceasefire and peace talks to stop senseless bloodshed and destruction.

Nonviolent resistance to aggressors and tyrants is always possible, even Armed Forces of Ukraine know that, they published at official website 198 methods of nonviolent resistance by Gene Sharp; all Ukrainians should know that after two nonviolent revolutions and nonviolent Ukrainian uprising in GULAG.

But when a pacifist speaks of nonviolent resistance, Security Service of Ukraine suspects he is an enemy and violates his human rights, like enemies are not humans. It is painfully dumb.

This illegal search of my apartment and seizure of computer and smartphone is very inconvenient, I need to prepare constitutional complaint for Vitaliy Alexeenko during the next two weeks because of deadline and all my work is on seized computer, there are other cases which need my contribution, so this seizure is a serious obstruction of my work as human rights defender.

Also, my notes on educational course “Basics of Pacifism” were taken, so the course will be launched later if launched at all.

But I will not run from my home and my country; if I will be sent to prison for pacifism, I will find a way to be useful for peace-loving Ukraine in prison too, I will think and write and seek ways to contribute into permanent worldwide dialog on peace, I will educate fellow inmates regarding peace and human rights and will help them, especially if they appear to be political prisoners too.

Thank you all for your support, I am grateful and humbled.

Nobel Peace Prize nomination of Ukrainian Pacifist Movement by the International Peace Bureau is especially touching, and I am proud that our organization is nominated in company of brave friends from Belarus and Russia who do a lot to help people to refuse to kill Ukrainians (or any other people), to escape Putin’s meat grinder.

Thanks also to Alexia Tsouni, president of European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, she is in Kyiv on human rights monitoring mission and she is going to help me.

I am grateful for your letters of support with evidence about my character, it could be needed in the possible but not appointed yet court hearings regarding preventive measure, which could be anything from house arrest to pretrial detention.

David Swanson, my friend and Executive Director of World BEYOND War, wrote in the reference letter: “Self-governance is not possible without people who are willing to nonviolently and cooperatively stand by their beliefs and work to persuade or be persuaded by others through dialogue rather than violence. Particularly necessary are people who, when they believe their government to be in the wrong, work to improve it rather than turn against it — people to whom the idea would never even occur of backing some other government against their own. This is the sort of person the world is fortunate to have in Yurii Sheliazhenko.” Thank you, David!

I ask all people who are watching this video: please support materially peace movements in your countries, and I hope in one way or another part of your support will be helpful for Ukrainian peace and human rights activists, and in my situation too, through international networks in which our organization participates.

Please support peace movements, create them, participate and fund. Give peace the budget!

Together, acting nonviolently, with scientific knowledge, faith and hope, we could build a better world where everybody refuse to kill and therefore there are no wars.

Editor’s Note:

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.

About Yurii.


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 warmaking on the basis of a statement in which he has explicitly condemned Russian warmaking, 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.


3 Responses

  1. I support Yurii Sheliazhenko with all my heart. Nonviolent methods are needed to save Ukrainian lives and also those of others. Nonviolence does not mean support of the enemy. It builds peace, it prevents destruction, deaths and suffering. Nonviolence, prevention, and conflict resolution are needed to save lives, perhaps our civilisation. Peace negotiation is needed urgently.

  2. Dear Yurii,

    we think of you and hope, our petition will have some positive effect on your security and human rights. Thank you for being a sheep in the middle of the wolfs. Be blessed and protected!

    Greetings from Germany

  3. Die Rede, die Yurii Sheliazhenko für die Ostermärsche der Friedensbewegung in Deutschland dieses Jahr geschrieben hat (und die in mehreren Städten verlesen wurde), habe ich gehört und bin sehr beeindruckt!

    Mit Yurii wird sich der Pazifismus auf lange Sicht gegen die Kriegstreiber durchsetzen!
    Ich wünsche ihm Kraft, Glück und Frieden, um den Angriffen zu widerstehen!

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