Ukrainian Christian jailed for refusing military service


Eastern Europe


Photo AFP, Jeff Pachoud

For the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, Ukraine has jailed an individual who refused military service on the grounds of conscience.

On January 16th, the Court of Appeal in the southwestern city of Ivano-Frankivsk rejected the appeal of 46-year-old Vitaly Alekseenko, a Christian. Alekseenko acknowledges that he has broken the law, reports Forum18. “But I am not guilty under the law of God.”

When the Ukrainian gets the written verdict, which he expects on January 19th, the sentence will go into force, and he expects to be taken to prison immediately afterwards. Alekseenko told Forum 18 he would lodge a further appeal. However, such an appeal would not prevent the sentence now going into force.

Yurii Sheliazhenko, secretary of the Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, described the appeal court decision as “bad news”. “It is a dangerous precedent that the appeal court upheld a sentence of imprisonment for a conscientious objector,” he told Forum 18 from the capital Kyiv.

Alekseenko, an internally-displaced person from Donetsk Region, was summoned to the recruitment office in Ivano-Frankivsk in June 2022. He explained that he could not take up arms because of his religious belief. He was refused alternative civilian service, and his case was handed to prosecutors. On September 15th 2022, Ivano-Frankivsk City Court handed down the one-year jail term.

Outside Ukraine, several pacifist groups, including the European Bureau for Conscientious and Objection War Resisters’ International condemned the verdict. They consider the conviction “a blatant violation of his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” The organisations express their full solidarity with Vitaly Alekseenko and urge the Ukrainian authorities to immediately drop all charges against him.



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