Australian artist removes mural depicting Russian and Ukrainian soldiers hugging

Peter Seaton’s mural depicting a Ukrainian and a Russian soldier hugging has been painted over (Peter Seaton / CTO)
Peter Seaton’s mural depicting a Ukrainian and a Russian soldier hugging has been painted over (Peter Seaton / CTO)

An Australian-based artist has removed his giant mural of a Ukrainian and Russian soldier hugging after widespread criticism from the Ukrainian community in Australia.

Peter Seaton, who works under the name CTO, painted the artwork near Kings Way, south of Melbourne’s CBD, and sold online videos of the artwork as NFTs.

He said the piece was to promote peace and did not realise it would be offensive to the people of Ukraine.

But a number of people called for the artist to remove the mural, saying it was “disgusting” and “shameful”.

Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed and Russian forces have been accused of war crimes since they invaded in February.

One person wrote on Instagram: “Art of the killer and the victim hugging? rapist and victim? the invader and the victim? this is contempt for all the victims of Ukraine who died at the hands of the Russians.”

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko called the work “utterly offensive”.

Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations’ Stefan Romaniw told the Sydney Morning Herald Australians were still supportive of Ukraine as the invasion continues.

“We all want the war to end, but there’s an aggressor here and you can’t put the aggressor and Ukrainians who are fighting on their home soil in the same categories,” he said.

In a video posted to Instagram, Mr Seaton apologised to the Ukrainian people.

“My intention was to promote peace and that’s always been my intention.

“I’m not affiliated with any Russian people, media, anything

“I’m purely someone who has some crackpot, spritualised ideas around people and unity and that we’re all one.

“If you want to hate me for that, hate me for that but I will die on my grave without budging from that ideal.”

Mr Seaton said the work was perhaps “naive”, and it did not “excuse the horrific crimes against humanity” that Russia has caused.

“The point of this piece is to ask, when will there be peace, will there be ever?

“Is conflict something we just have to accept as a part of the human condition or can we go beyond war?”