Mike Ludwig: War Is Forcing Ukrainian Leftists to Make Difficult Decisions About Violence

Truthout, March 5, 2022

Sounds of sirens and explosions have rocked Yurii Sheliazhenko’s five-story house in Kyiv every day since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Sheliazhenko is the executive director of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement and an isolated yet determined voice for peace in a country very much at war. He has experienced a “lot of hate” for refusing to bear arms and to join neighbors in making Molotov cocktails to fend off advancing Russian forces, which face stiff resistance from civilians turned fighters determined to defend Ukraine.

“Firstly, tell the truth, that there is no violent way to peace,” Sheliazhenko said when asked over email about what people in the U.S. can do to support activists in Ukraine.

Somewhere else near Kyiv, “Ilya” and his comrades have taken up arms against the Russian military and are training for battle. Ilya, who must conceal his identity due to escalating violence, is an anarchist who fled political repression in a neighboring country and decided to resist the Russian invasion. Along with fellow anarchists, democratic socialists, anti-fascists and other leftists from Ukraine and around the world, Ilya joined one of the “territorial defense” units that operate like voluntary militias under the Ukrainian military with some degree of autonomy. With support from a horizontal alliance of mutual aid groups and volunteers with civilian duties, anti-authoritarians have their own “international detachment” within the territorial defense structure and are fundraising for supplies, according to a group known as the Resistance Committee.

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