On the action in Berlin. 9.12.2023. Photo: Christine Schweitzer

On the action in Berlin. 9.12.2023. Photo: Christine Schweitzer

#ObjectWarCampaign: Letter by Yurii Sheliazhenko to the week of action in December 2023

by Yurii Sheliazhenko, Ukrainian Pacifist Movement

(04.12.2023) Dear friends, greetings from Kyiv. Air raid alerts, cold shelter in the nearest underground parking and tragic updates about new deaths are my daily life under martial law during the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Additionally to regular pains of war experienced by all relatively lucky citizens who managed to survive mass killing, life of a pacifist is full of additional hardships. I am talking not only about everyday nonviolent resistance to war and militarism in words and deeds, burden of responsibility for a better future depending on conscience and efforts of a few enthusiasts who dare to dream and work for a world without wars in a hostile environment. More painful is that peace dreamers are repressed. Conscientious objectors are jailed.

I am under house arrest and risk to be tried and jailed for up to five years for alleged justification of Russian aggression in antiwar statement which condemns it. My letter to President Zelensky was dangerous, they say, because nonviolent resistance is utopia and the army don’t like conscientious objection.

See, you can’t dream about peace, you must adopt utopian ideas of the propaganda of war to make all people soldiers and to wipe Russia out from the world map. You should also think that Putin just bluffed when he said these horrible things about nukes and why he would not need the world without Russia. You must want to defeat Russia, they call it "morale." And if you live in Russia, the same sort of immoral "morale" requires to kill Ukrainians, portrayed as Nazi, and defeat Ukraine. A picture with woman showing heart by hands from behind the bars in Saint Petersburg captured my imagination: Sasha Skochilenko said "When you imprison pacifists, you delay peace," and she was jailed for 7 years.

More than a half million people were killed, but that don’t stopped Presidents Putin and Zelensky from announcements of more military recruitment to sacrifice more lives in endless, pointless and senseless war. No equivalence here, of course: aggressor must be held accountable and reasonable self-defense is right thing to do, though I would rather do it without violence.

When you respond violently to violence, suffering and destruction multiplies. People feel it and knew it, that’s why people vote by foot against the war when it is possible. More than a million of Russians escaped Putin’s tyranny, not to mention those who fled from his complicit dictator Lukashenko, and more than a half million of Ukrainian refugees hide in Europe from cruel conscription, from abduction of draftees on the streets.

Every person saved from the meat grinder of war is a triumph of life and a step towards peace. That’s why we need to support Object War Campaign aimed at providing protection and asylum to all those who risk to be repressed for  refusal to kill in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Right to refuse to kill is absolute, because human life and dignity is sacred.

I wish the serfdom of conscription could be prohibited by international law, because without such an authoritarian tool it would be hard to wage long and monstrous wars. Peace is human right, it demands care instead of hate towards others, and war is no excuse for violations of freedom of conscience.

We should remember and advocate that on the eve of Human Rights Day. I congratulate you with this meaningful date coming, and I wish you peace and happiness. Never give up your hopes and your efforts for the world where people will forget how to wage wars.

Yurii Sheliazhenko, Ukrainian Pacifist Movement: Letter to the Action Week for Protection and Asylum for Conscientious Objectors and Deserters from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. December 4, 2023