A poster with an anti-war slogan on a wall in Ukraine

Guide to Conscientious Objection in Ukraine

Conscientious objection is an anti-war attitude, a political and individual action that rejects wars and armed conflicts. Conscientious objectors in different parts of the world refuse to take up arms or serve in armies for moral, religious, or other reasons.

Before 2022, the right to conscientious objection to military service was recognised by Ukrainian law, but its practical implementation was inadequate. However, on February 24, when martial law was declared due to the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence announced the suspension of the existing right to conscientious objection in Ukraine.  

All able-bodied men from 18 to 60 years old were forbidden from leaving the country as Ukraine began a general mobilization of all reserve forces.


A protest in Brussels in support of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian conscientious objectors

Since the suspension of the right to conscientious objection in Ukraine, serious repression of war resisters has taken place. Conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in the Ukrainian military face prosecution, conviction, imprisonment, and even forced conscription.

Those who refuse to participate in the ongoing war in Ukraine continue their struggle despite the pressures they face. The seizure operation against the Executive Secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement in August 2023, and the subsequent house arrest, is the most concrete indication of the threat to conscientious objectors in Ukraine. Grassroots anti-war organisations and networks around the world stand in solidarity with anyone who stands up against the barbarity of war, especially at this time of conflict in Ukraine.

Find more information about the current situation regarding conscientious objection in Ukraine and the pressure and threats they face in our Ukraine-CO section. Access general information about the right to conscientious objection, and carefully selected articles about CO in Ukraine.

You can also find individual stories on CO Ruslan Kotsaba and CO Yurii Sheliazhenko whose personal stories and battles with persecution will help you further understand the current state of CO in Ukraine.


An image from Object War Campaign to stand in solidarity with Ukrainian CO Yurii Sheliazhenko

Conscientious objectors in Ukraine are resisting the Russian invasion and remind us that the only way to stop war is to refuse war, regardless of ongoing pressure and countless human rights violations. By investing in arms and militaries to ‘end conflict’, states and governments only deep war, suffering, and devastation.

Conscientious objection is a human right guaranteed by international human rights conventions and should be recognised especially in times of war. In Ukraine and all over the world, the right to conscientious objection must be protected for those who refuse to fight and kill.

For further information check out our overview on CO and human rights in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus and our comprehensive guides to related topics on Military, Peace, and Conscientious Objectors & War Resisters.

Author: Huseyin 03.09.23

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