Support Letter for Yurii Sheliazhenko

NatWiss strongly condemns the sentencing of Yurii Sheliazhenko, a well-known conscientious objector, pacifist and executive director of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement. The human rights activist and lawyer was placed under partial house arrest on August 15, 2023.

Open Letter

We have learned of the legal case brought by the Security Service of Ukraine against our colleague, Yuri Sheliazhenko, a member of the Ukrainian pacifist movement. We understand that the basis of these accusations is a possible „justification of Russian aggression“. We would like to help dispelling these accusations against Yuri, an honest man, fully convinced of the Russian responsibility for this terrible invasion, and strongly committed to peace as the ultimate goal of humanity. Yuri’s actions never supported in the slightest way the Russian invasion of Ukraine, quite the opposite.

Yuri has been an active member of the activities of the Science for Peace forum, a group of scientists from all over Europe and the USA, formed following the Russian invasion, to reflect on the consequences of this act on the evolution of scientific cooperation. These discussions led to several petitions, initially aimed at defending the principle that cooperation among scientists engaged in peaceful fundamental research, fully decoupled from military or non-scientific scopes, must be protected.

The cooperation among scientists has been a landmark in the progress of science and peace over the last several decades, providing a framework in which political disputes could be set aside for the benefit of scientific progress and its positive reflection on humanity. Institutions like the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), have contributed to strengthening the cooperation and stability of peace in Europe, starting from the years immediately after World War 2, when the trust among previous enemies had to be rebuilt.

The latest petition prepared by Science for Peace dealt with the threat of using nuclear weapons by Russia. The petition, signed by over 1900 scientists, including 14 Nobel Laureates, was presented to the head of governments prior to the last G20 summit, and was acknowledged by the response of several Prime Ministers.

Yuri has been a key participant in our discussions, contributing with his insight on the conflict, and updating us on the situation of the Ukrainian people. While a fervent pacifist, Yuri has always shown respect for the actions undertaken by the Ukrainian government in response to the invasion. He helped us understand the recent history of relations between Russia and Ukraine. There was never a single indication that he would endorse these „motivations“, let alone justify the outrageous invasion. As a pacifist, his inclination is clearly to focus on peaceful problem solving. Trying to understand the root causes of conflict is not a denial of responsibilities, it is a critical effort necessary to help solving conflicts and preparing the ground for a peaceful future. It is also people like Yuri who can help us build a safer future, for your country and for the whole of humanity.

We fully expect a fair review of his case, and are confident that Yuri will emerge as innocent. From our knowledge of Yuri, we cannot possibly see his role as someone who would justify, let alone support, the Russian invasion. We ask you to respect his moral rejection of war, and not to confuse his ethical convictions with an effort to undermine your determination to oust the invasion.