Words of welcome on the occasion of the International Day of Conscientious Objection

Ukrainian Pacifist Movement

by Yurii Sheliazhenko, 15.5.2024

Dear friends, greetings from Kyiv and my best wishes for success in your peace initiatives.

Ukraine suffers from brutal criminal invasion of Putin’s army, and global solidarity for nonviolent resistance to Russian aggression is needed to end the war by peaceful means.

A peace summit in Switzerland will gather in June to discuss the Ukrainian peace formula of President Zelensky and prepare the negotiation position of the international community for further communication with Russia.

This process gives hope to end the lethal and destructive events of last time, that already caused fears of big war involving nuclear weapons and led to a decline of democracy and well-being in Europe and beyond.

I have no good news from Ukraine for you.

The number of Ukrainian kids killed by the Kremlin’s war exceeded half a thousand.

All civilian men in Ukraine who didn’t manage to escape abroad are proclaimed draft evaders and hunted by the army to conscript them forcibly or punish them with increasing severity.

More conscientious objectors are imprisoned, and on 2nd May the Supreme Court refused to acquit an internationally known objector Mykhailo Yavorsky.

When I prepared this message, an air raid alert was screaming on the street, and I had a letter from the Ministry of Justice on my table which said that they were going to prohibit and dissolve my organization, the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, because of our Peace Agenda for Ukraine and the World in which we condemned Russian aggression and called to end it by peaceful means.

Calls to silence guns and negotiate are understandable, but we must admit that such calls have a hostile reception among people trusting in the miraculous power of guns, they blame peace movements for appeasing the enemy and justification the war.

We could call for disarmament, while it is not prohibited by war censorship, but North Korea is not going to stop weapons supply to Moscow and the United States is not going to stop arming Kyiv because of these calls.

We are facing well-funded and disturbingly popular strategies of endless war, and we need to work hard to find a systemic long-term response supported by the people and necessary resources.

While we are seeking for solution for reframing the war discourse and starting peaceful transformations, it could be better to resort to civic diplomacy, humanitarian and human rights action, peace journalism, and peace education instead of direct calls to lay down weapons in order not to provoke warmongers and militarists to inflict more pain on the culture of peace and stubbornly civilian civilians which they hate so much.

We need practical knowledge, caution, and wisdom, apart from our usual courage and hope, to deal with emerging long-term politics and the economy of war. But in the end fair and lasting peace is inevitable, because in every corner of this common planet of humankind, people need it, people need peace, and we in omnipresent peace movements will work together, work tirelessly to satisfy this basic human need.

Yurii Sheliazhenko: Words of welcome on the occasion of the International Day of Conscientious Objection, Ukrainian Pacifist Movement. Sent by email on May 15, 2024.