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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Nino Bucci

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia calls for removal of ‘offensive’ mural of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers

Peter Seaton's Peace before pieces, a mural of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers hugging in Melbourne's CBD has been slammed by the Ukraine ambassador to Australia
Melbourne artist Peter Seaton has apologised for his mural of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers hugging and says he plans to paint over it. Photograph: CTOart

The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia has criticised the painting of a large mural in Melbourne that shows Russian and Ukrainian soldiers hugging.

Vasyl Myroshnychenko said the mural near the CBD was “utterly offensive to all Ukrainians” and the artist “has no clue about the RU invasion of Ukraine”.

“​​The mural creates a sense of a false equivalency between the victim and the aggressor. It must be promptly removed,” he said in a tweet.

Sociologist Olga Boichak, a lecturer in digital cultures at the University of Sydney, said the reason such equivalence was dangerous was that it “implies that peace can be achieved if both parties agreed to lay down their weapons”.

“By now, we all have a clear idea of what would happen if Ukraine stopped fighting, so this ‘art’ delegitimises the lived experiences of resistance,” she tweeted.

“Unsurprisingly, similar tropes can be seen on murals in Russia – forcing a victim and aggressor into the picture on equal terms. If you’re an artist interested in contributing to the visions of peace, reading up on Ukraine’s postcolonial history is a great place to start.”

The Ukraine ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko poses for a photograph at the Embassy of Ukraine in Canberra
The Ukraine ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, says the mural ‘creates a sense of a false equivalency between the victim and the aggressor’. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The artist, Peter Seaton, who paints under the name CTO, apologised for the work on Sunday. He said he had no affiliation with any Russian organisations, as some critics had implied.

“I apologise heavily to the Ukrainian people if I offended them, and obviously I have, it was not my intention. My intention was to promote peace,” he said in an Instagram post.

“I’m purely someone who maybe has some crackpot … spiritual ideas around the unity of people, and that we’re all one.

“If you want to hate me for that, hate me for that, but I’ll die on my grave without budging from that ideal, that we fundamentally have more in common than things that we don’t have in common.”

While he did not mention it in his Instagram post, Seaton told SBS he planned to paint over the mural.

Seaton first started promoting the mural – which he called Peace before Pieces – last week.

He was selling pictures of the work as non-fungible tokens and said profits would be donated to World Beyond War, a war abolition organisation.

The piece was to be painted over once all 12 NFTs were sold, Seaton said in promotional material for the work.

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