Ruslan Kotsaba, former president of NGO Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, was expelled for behavior opposite to the mission of the organization, since he refuses to engage actively and consistently into nonviolent resistance to Russian armed aggression against Ukraine and holds inappropriate public political position which prevents nonviolent resistance to aggression and does not correspond to the Declaration on the Principles of Peaceful Communication, adopted at the general assembly on 21 September 2023.
The decision to expel Kotsaba was made, after consultations with members of the collective leadership of the movement, by the executive secretary Yurii Sheliazhenko. It was decided within the powers granted to the executive secretary by a decision of the constituent assembly of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement adopted on 29 August 2019, for which Kotsaba himself voted, which is confirmed by the minutes signed by him. Before the expulsion, Kotsaba was repeatedly offered to change his behavior or at least to give up the formal status of the president of the organization, since he is not performing presidential duties for a long time and acts contrary to goals and principles of the movement. After proper change of behavior towards sincerely pacifist, however, Ruslan still could apply for membership in the organization on the official website https://www.pacifism.org.ua/
“This is a painful decision, because once upon a time Kotsaba contributed to development of Ukrainian pacifism” – says Yurii Sheliazhenko, – “Thanks to Kotsaba’s call not to participate in the war, many Ukrainians, despite the war propaganda, refused to kill Ukrainians; and what is especially valuable, several times more Russians refused to kill Ukrainians and participate in Putin’s criminal aggression against Ukraine, which tragically started in 2014 and escalated after a brutal invasion on 24 February 2022. When Kotsaba called on people not to kill people portrayed as enemies by the war propaganda, it was heard by all people on all sides of the frontline. The war propaganda here and there, which for various reasons spread the news about his call, actually worked against itself despite the schemes of military manipulators. People everywhere saw that someone is not afraid to speak out against the war; it was a good example to follow. I remember how eight years ago Kotsaba called me before recording his famous video blog, which entailed ongoing political repression, and I advised him not to take sides, but to demand from all militant politicians to change their behavior, avoid demagogic political slogans and insist on refusal to kill, humanitarianism, condemnation of war in principle. Then he followed my advice. Now, unfortunately, he does not want to discuss and put into practice the principles and values of the pacifist worldview. Kotsaba focuses on cynical political pseudo-realism, anger to the Ukrainian authorities because of political repressions, and he does not want to hear that pacifists cannot have enemies, especially in their own country, that pacifists should be harmless, effective and successful dreamers, moralists and human rights defenders, and not the spreaders of stupid and toxic information war narratives. I thought a lot about whether I had made a mistake when I invited Kotsaba to preside in our organization, hoping that his popularity would promote pacifism. This can be argued. But now one thing is clear: Kotsaba behaves in such a way that every consistent Ukrainian pacifist and I personally feel ashamed of the former president of our organization. On behalf of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, I apologize to the Ukrainian public for all the nonsense that Kotsaba spoke about pacifism, although no one authorized him to do so.”
We still condemn the fact that Kotsaba was thrown into prison for calling for peace and continues to be repressed. No one should be persecuted for calling for peace – this is a principle that is more important than personalities. But what Kotsaba endured does not give him the right to deprive people of the only hope for peace in the values-based pacifism, the foundation of practical knowledge and moral principles universally recognized in the world peace movement, the foundation which Kotsaba undermines by overwhelming his naive audience, which lacks knowledge about true pacifism, with cheap and often fake political farce.
The telegram channels controlled by Kotsaba have no relation to the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, its leader Yurii Sheliazhenko and the collective governing body, the Council of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement; four months ago, Kotsaba’s opposition to creation of the Council, inclusion of female peace activists and a dissident with experience in non-violent resistance to Soviet authoritarian militarism into reformed collective leadership of the movement became a clear signal of the loss of the moral compass by our former president. We demand that Kotsaba change the name and description of his channels and remove any indication of their connection with our Ukrainian peace movement, and he also must remove from the discussion group of his fan club the logo with the image of the Peace Symbol on the background of the Ukrainian sky, which is a creation and intellectual property of Yurii Sheliazhenko.
We invite everyone to subscribe to the official Telegram channel of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement https://t.me/pacifism_org_ua and, if you like, to join an informal discussion group https://t.me/peace_talks_ua
Context. NGO Ukrainian Pacifist Movement was founded in 2019 to advocate, practice and protect human rights to peace and to conscientious objection to military service, to work, research, educate for peaceful conflict management, disarmament, peace culture, to strengthen nonviolent way of life and democratic civilian control over military affairs. We participate in international networks: European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, World BEYOND War, War Resisters’ International, International Peace Bureau. In our peace work we take efforts to uphold human right to refuse to kill, to stop the war in Ukraine and all wars in the world, and to build peace. We condemn Russian aggression, and we are nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2022, the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement adopted the program document, Peace Agenda for Ukraine and the World, which condemned Russian aggression and all wars and outlined a plan to build a new world without wars, where a non-violent lifestyle would prevail.
In 2023, the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement called for protection of the right to refuse to kill and creation of the Unarmed Forces of Ukraine for non-violent resistance to Russian aggression and peaceful protection of civilians. Also, the movement adopted the Declaration on the Principles of Peaceful Communication and published a report on violations of human right to conscientious objection to military service in Ukraine.
Kyiv, 12 December 2023