Antiwar Activists in Russia and Ukraine Are Calling for an End to Militarism

In 2014, thousands of people flooded the streets of Moscow. protest Russia’s involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where separatists were fighting for control of the Donbas region after an uprising supported by the West pushed out an elected president in Kyiv. Tens of thousands protested in 2003 against the invasion by the United States of Iraq in Washington, D.C., and in mass protests around the globe.

Now, the conflict in Ukraine has been escalated by both Russia and the U.S. NATO coalition. On Thursday, Russian forces invaded Ukraine. There are fears that the conflict will escalate into bloody chaos and spread across Eastern Europe. According to the Kremlin Russian missiles destroyed Ukrainian military installations and brought in NATO weapons. According to the Ukrainian government, dozensMany soldiers and civilians died in the line of duty.

Scattered protestsRussia, Germany, the U.S., and around the world are witnessing increased violence. But antiwar activists from Ukraine and Russia claim that their demonstrations often get little Western media coverage and are frequently repressed or censored in police stations.

The U.S. and its powerful allies placed economic sanctions on Russia this week after Putin recognized two pro-Russian breakaway “republics” in Donbas and deployed troops Russia calls “peacekeepers.” Putin also argued in a speech that Ukraine is essentially part of Russia. The Russian military claims its “peace enforcement operation” has no intention to “occupy” Ukraine, according to a statement passed along by a Russian military analyst, although it is unclear how that statement should be interpreted.

Both sides accuse one another of being aggressor. However, antiwar activists in Russia or Ukraine are drawing attention both to Russia’s increasing militarism and NATO’s.

“When Ukrainian and Western media mention Russian security concerns, it is usually to dismiss them, claiming that NATO is a defensive alliance and Ukraine has a right to align with it,” said Yurii Sheliazhenko, the executive secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, in an email. “When they show maps of amassing Russian troops on Ukrainian borders, they never show where NATO’s and Ukrainian military forces are positioned, despite there [being] a lot of public information of the sort; experts definitely know it.”

Sheliazhenko stated that militarism exists in Russia and Ukraine, though antiwar activists are protesting the escalating violence.

“You should understand that due to the underdeveloped peace culture in Ukraine and all post-Soviet countries, including Russia, we have no independent impartial mass peace movement here and very few consistent pacifists,” Sheliazhenko said.

U.S. news outlets report that Russia’s antiwar activists responded muted to the 2014 protests. The police responded with a brutal crackdown. Some experts sayA government that is dependent on Putin has little effect on street protests. A Russian activist claimed that antiwar protest organizers are being held on a daily basis. He said this because he was afraid of repression. He also sent messages in encrypted text.

“There [are] no big street protests in Russia as all protests are banned ‘due to COVID,’ however, pro-war protests are accepted,” said the activist, who is currently living in a neighboring country but maintains contact with activists in Moscow. “In Moscow there are small actions daily and arrests.”

Sheliazhenko claimed that there is also repression for the small antiwar movements in Ukraine. After a NATO war, NATO’s military supporters and a friendly government gave encouragement to violent elements of the far-right. U.S.-backedA pro-Russian President was deposed in an uprising in 2014.

Sheliazhenko claimed that protests and pickets took place in several Ukrainian cities recently, including in front U.S. embassy Kyiv and the Ukrainian Parliament. The media ignored the protesters and they were stopped by police officers and asked to state on video that they would not be organizing more demonstrations. Petitions to safeguard human rights are more popular online than petitions for conflict resolution. Furthermore, petitions have less impact on politicians than petitions, according to activist.

“Again, I should say that street actions for peace are effective when genuine peace movements have people’s solidarity because of developed peace culture, and when there is little threat of persecution and violent attacks of far-righters,” Sheliazhenko said. “Now the state of emergency is introduced and Ukrainian government started to introduce the state of war, it limits freedom of assembly anyway.”

Many people across the globe, including the U.S. and Russia, oppose the war on Ukraine. Activists believe that a return of diplomacy would prevent unnecessary bloodshed. It is urgently needed for global problems like the COVID pandemic and climate change to be addressed.

Some peace activists want to dismantle NATO or transform the military coalition into an “alliance of disarmament,” according to Sheliazhenko. NATO has supported multiple U.S.-led wars and enraged Putin by arming Russia’s neighbors with weapons, and the conflict Donbas escalated after the U.S. and its allies rejected Putin’s demand that Ukraine be barred from joining the military alliance.

“The conflict is the product of thirty years of failed policies, including the expansion of NATO and U.S. hegemony at the expense of other countries as well as major wars of aggression by the USA, Britain and other NATO powers which have undermined international law and the United Nations,” said a statement from the Stop the War Coalition in Britain this week.

According to a poll, 72 percent of Americans voted that the U.S. should either play a minor or major role in the conflict. Respondents want Biden’s attention to domestic issues, such as gun violence or inflation. accordingTo The Washington Post. Despite the threat of war in Ukraine, protests in the pandemic-weary U.S. did not escalate as negotiations between Russia and the U.S. over NATO expansion collapsed.

Trump’s praise for Putin is still a favorite attack line of liberals. Trump has muddled public opinion. In fact, the poll found that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to support the U.S. taking a “major” role in the conflict, with 32 percent of Democrats in support compared to 22 percent of Republicans.

However, antiwar groups in the U.S., Russia and beyond oppose the U.S. and NATO’s role in the conflict while also condemning Putin’s militarism and autocratic control of Russia.

“This is an act of imperialist aggression by Russia,” said Autonomous Action, a Russian anarchist collective involved in the 2014 antiwar protests, in a statementThis week. “We have no illusions about the Ukrainian state, but it is clear to us that it is not the main aggressor in this story — this is not a confrontation between two equal evils.”

Putin’s supporters see him as a protector of Russian-speaking people in Eastern Ukraine, but there are also dissidents who dismiss Putin’s latest moves as blatant imperialism that will spread Russian authoritarianism. Russian leftists are in a difficult situation due to the conflict in Ukraine. While many people oppose Putin, they also strongly oppose paramilitary right wing ultranationalists on Ukraine’s side.

In the meantime, U.S. continues to deployBiden stated that troops, fighter jets, and attack helicopters can be sent to Eastern Europe by the United States Army, but he did not specify which. U.S. troops will notFighting a war in Ukraine After years of meddling with Ukrainian affairs, NATO and U.S. are considered aggressors by Russia. Russia is surrounded by advanced missilesPoland, Romania, or the Black Sea.

“This conflict, in the first place, happened because of right-wing nationalists on all sides and their militant policies,” Sheliazhenko said. “Western governments and private benefactors invested a lot in development of right-wing and moderate nationalist Ukrainian civil society, while Russia funded networks of right-wing and moderate Russian nationalists and Putin sympathizers.”

For now, Ukrainian peace activists are pushing back against forced conscription into the Ukrainian military and “telling the truth about the belligerents” on both sides of the conflict “amidst their battle of arrogant lies,” according to Sheliazhenko. Activists call on the U.S. diplomatic approach to send a message to all sides that peace talks must be resumed before more people are killed.

“Any apologies of war are essentially based on a mother of all lies: We are angels and they are demons,” Sheliazhenko said. “All wars are usually alleged to be defensive.”