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Australian artist removes Ukraine and Russia mural after backlash

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By Tiffanie Turnbull

BBC News, Sydney

Mural showing Ukrainian and Russian soldier huggingImage source, CTO art

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Critics say the mural drew a false moral equivalence between the two sides

An Australian artist has painted over a street mural showing Ukrainian and Russian soldiers hugging, after a community backlash.

The Melbourne artwork advocated for “a peaceful resolution” between the two countries, creator Peter Seaton says.

But some have likened the three-storey mural to Russian propaganda.

Seaton – known as CTO – has apologised for his work, saying it was “clumsy” and he “didn’t think it would be so badly received”.

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

Critics said the work – titled Peace Before Pieces – drew a false moral equivalence between the two sides.

“What would people think if a mural featured a rapist and a victim hugging?” co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, Stefan Romaniw, said in a statement.

“Trying to be ‘even-handed’ and accepting a false narrative that ‘all we need is peace’ in this case supports evil.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko said it was “utterly offensive to all Ukrainians”.

An art organisation, called Art4Ukraine Australia, said it had raised concerns about the artwork before it was started, and was shocked to see it completed.

Seaton said he had stayed up until 03:00 local time on Monday (13:00 Sunday GMT) to paint over the mural.

“The mural cost me $2,000 to $3,000… I wouldn’t do that and spend 10 days doing it if I had thought it was going to hurt people,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation later on Monday.

But he also defended his work, saying he still believed it had a “net benefit” and “a lot of people did get the message”.

“[But] there’s obviously a contingent of people that feel that this is going to be hurtful and maybe traumatising and that’s not what I want to create my work,” he said.

Seaton is selling NFTs – non-fungible tokens – of the artwork, and the money raised will be donated to charity, he said.

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