During 15 months of full-scale invasion in Ukraine, the Russian Federation exhausted its military resources. Instead of the planned seizure of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, in three days, the Russian army made little progress and suffered severe losses of human resources and equipment. Instead of “being greeted with flowers,” Ukrainians in occupied territories fought back.
To regroup, mobilize, train more military personnel and stop the impending Ukrainian counteroffensive, the Kremlin needs to put the war on hold. To achieve these goals, the Russian government started an active campaign of manipulating international public opinion. The Kremlin uses willing and unwilling agents of influence abroad and in Ukraine to push “peace” negotiations.
One of the Kremlin agents in Ukraine is the Pacifist Movement of Ukraine. The organization is not widely recognized or followed in Ukraine: 1,330 subscribers/10,000 followers on Facebook, with an average of 5–20 likes per post, and 175 subscribers on Ukraine’s most popular social media Telegram in a country with more than 40 million population. Even though the movement is little known, its founders have gained some ill fame for their cooperation with the Kremlin-controlled media.
The Pacifist Movement of Ukraine leader, Ruslan Kotsaba, currently resides in the United States. While still in Ukraine, Kotsaba hosted a show on the pro-Russian Ukrainian TV channel NewsOne and worked for Channel 112, which was formerly owned by a member of the pro-Kremlin opposition group Taras Kozak.
The channels were believed to be related to Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and a close friend of Putin who has been accused of treason in Ukraine. When in 2023, Medvedchuk, in exile in the Russian Federation after a prisoner swap, founded Druhaya Ukraina (“Another Ukraine”), a group that spreads pro-Russian messages amplified by Kremlin-controlled media, Kotsaba joined Druhaya Ukraina.
In the past, Kotsaba appeared on the Kremlin-funded media and he continues to speak to the Russian mass media from the United States. His political views are hardly liberal. In his posts on the Russian social media network, he supports former president Donald Trump and former Fox anchor Tucker Carlson.
Kotsaba is known for his anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic statements. For instance, Kotsaba stated that Jews “bear their share of responsibility for the Holocaust” and are responsible “for the rise of communism, fascism and other misanthropic ideologies.”
Yuri Shelyazhenko, executive secretary of the Pacifist Movement of Ukraine, also wrote for the Kremlin-controlled Ekho Moskvy in 2009–2022 and opposed the ban of Russian social media in Ukraine. In June 2023, Shelyazhenko is scheduled to speak at Vienna’s International Peace Bureau summit.
The International Summit for Peace in Ukraine will address the global political leaders and “publish an Urgent Global Appeal, called the Vienna Declaration for Peace, calling on political leaders to act in support of a ceasefire and negotiations in Ukraine.” The summit speakers list includes the linguist Noam Chomsky, who has consistently justified Crimea’s annexation, and Russian citizens, including Asya Gagiev, a daughter of a prominent figure in Putin’s party United Russia, explains Oleksandr Kovalenko, one of Ukraine’s leading political analysts.
According to Kovalenko, the International Peace Bureau has a long history of cooperation with the former USSR. Sean McBride, a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), collaborated with Soviet intelligence as early as the 1920s. In the 1980s, U.S. intelligence put the International Peace Bureau on the list of organizations working in the interests of the USSR.
Kovalenko also researched the sponsoring organizations of the summit. According to him, an Austrian parliamentarian, Wolfgang Katzian, the head of the summit sponsoring organization, the Union of Trade Unions of Austria (Österreichischer Gewerkschaftsbund), was a member of the Austria-Russia parliamentary group that in 2018 adopted a five-year program of cooperation and dialogue with Russia. He managed the football club Austria, sponsored by Gazprom, the Russian Federation state corporation. Katzian is also a part of the administration of the Austrian-Russian Friendship Community, funded by the Russian special services, reports Kovalenko.
Another sponsor of the Vienna summit is CODEPINK, a feminist nongovernmental organization promoted by the Kremlin-funded RT (former Russia Today) and Sputnik. CODEPINK was mentioned in the 2019 U.S. Congressional hearing on the Russian disinformation attacks on elections.
Speaking of the Kremlin disinformation campaigns, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, William R. Keating (D–Mass.), said that “Russian trolls will amplify any message that seeks to divide Western democracy and sow discord and chaos.
“From supporting CODEPINK and fascist groups in the United States to spreading anti-European Union and anti-NATO messages across Europe, Vladimir Putin’s goal is to divide the bond that holds democratic nations together. As long as Putin’s hold on power remains unchallenged, he will continue to meddle in Western democracy.”
In February 2023, CODEPINK hosted a Kremlin propagandist, Vladimir Posner, pushing pro-Kremlin narratives.
Philosopher Slavoj Žižek wrote in 2022, “What is absolutely unacceptable for a true leftist today is not only to support Russia but also to make a more ‘modest’ neutral claim that the left is divided between pacifists and supporters of Ukraine and that one should treat this division as a minor fact which shouldn’t affect the left’s global struggle against global capitalism…
“Today, one cannot be a leftist if one does not unequivocally stand behind Ukraine. To be a leftist who ‘shows understanding’ for Russia is like to be one of those leftists who, before Germany attacked the Soviet Union, took seriously German ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric directed at the UK and advocated neutrality in the war of Germany against France and the UK.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Associated Press that his government wants a peace summit—after the Russian Federation faces a war crimes tribunal.
On the first anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion in Ukraine, Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission, said that “it is clear that the world wants peace and that Ukrainians deserve peace. But not just any peace. We want a just peace, based on international law and respect for the UN Charter…Supporting Ukraine and searching for peace go together.”