Act Now to Save Ukrainian Peace Activist from Prosecution

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, September 14, 2023

We’ve just learned that the office of the prosecutor and the “security service” of Ukraine have published press releases claiming to have put a stop to the activities of the “vicious Russian propagandist Yurii Sheliazhenko.”

This is, of course, very strange because Yurii, a Board Member of World BEYOND War, has — like World BEYOND War — denounced and opposed Russian warmaking from Day 1.

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.

Next week, Yurii will face prosecution in Kyiv, and members of World BEYOND War will be there to deliver a petition — please sign it now! — asking that the prosecution be dropped. If you can get to Kyiv next week and support Yurii, please contact us.

This week, spokesperson for the Ukrainian military’s “Territorial Defense Forces” Sarah Ashton-Cirillo published a video that included the following words (but you really have to watch it to experience the psychotic, beyond-parody presentation):

“Next week the teeth of the Russian devils will gnash ever harder, and their rabid mouths will foam an uncontrollable frenzy as the world will see a favorite Kremlin propagandist pay for their crimes. And this puppet of Putin is only the first. Russia’s war criminal propagandists will all be hunted down and justice will be served.”

We have no way of knowing whether the “favorite Kremlin propagandist” is a humble peace activist who has never had anything to do with the Kremlin, and has condemned Russian warmaking over and over again as immoral, criminal, and reprehensible.

But the U.S. public recently lived through years of being told that a U.S. president who was extremely hostile to Russia was Russia’s servant. Donald Trump sold weapons to Ukraine, blocked Russian energy deals, forced NATO members to buy more weapons, continued the militarization of the border of Russia, sanctioned and expelled Russian officials, rejected numerous Russian overtures on space weapons, cyber wars, etc., bombed Russian troops in Syria, and generally escalated the new cold war. And rather than seeking to protect the planet, what did the “opposition” in the United States Congress do? They pretended that Trump was serving Russian interests because he’d been urinated on. So don’t tell me that blaming a pacifist for a military invasion is too crazy for a government run by a sitcom star and employing the young woman in the video above.

In addition, those of us who oppose both sides of wars are well aware that each side finds such a position incomprehensible and therefore the equivalent of supporting the other side. World BEYOND War receives masses of accusations of supporting each side of this war, even though we’ve created a huge online resource to explain why and how to oppose all sides of all wars.

Yurii Sheliazhenko is, in my experience, a man of the highest character. He has for years volunteered as an active board member of an organization of which I am executive director, World BEYOND War. In many collaborations and events with global participants, Yurii has always been wise, principled, honest, reliable, cheerful, humble, and fearless. Ukraine could hardly ask for a better representative.

Yurii, of course, takes a principled stand against warmaking, believing — as I do — that there are choices other than, and superior to, those of waging war or lying down and surrendering to someone else waging war. Yurii not only believes this but works diligently at explaining it to others. This may make him a poor member of a military, but it makes him an excellent member of a democracy — that thing that militaries are always claiming to be fighting for.

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.

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