The World Village Festival organised by Fingo in May 25-26, 2024 prominently features Illia Ponomarenko as a speaker. His announced topic is “information influence” in the context of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. His visit is sponsored by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Out of human solidarity and respect for universal human rights, we commend the World Village Festival for supporting the rights of people who face wars of aggression, military occupation, annexation and concomitant human rights violation, in this case Ukrainians. For the same reasons, we declare our opposition to far-right ideology and practice, and to racism and discrimination, such as antisemitism, islamophobia, anti-Roma racism and anti-LGTBI hate.

Therefore, we find Ponomarenko’s appearance at the World Village Festival deeply problematic.

On his Twitter feed Ponomarenko has written in 2019 that he was in 2017 “consecrated” as part of Azov, who are his “brothers in arms”. His feedfeatures several other tweets where he expresses his strong connection to Azov, and links to his articles where he promotes Azov.

It has been widely reported that Azov is a far-right organisation involved in human rights violations. Israel’s most respected newspaper Haaretz reported in 2019 how Azov members give Hitler salutes and are “virulently anti-Semitic”. The New York Times called Azov “openly neo-Nazi” in 2015. The Nation reported in 2019 how Azov’s founder and first commander Andriy Biletsky had announced that his mission is to “lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade…against the Semite-led Untermenschen”, referring to Jewish people. In 2016 and 2018, the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on Azov’s violent attacks against LGTBI people and RomaAmnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have documented torture and ill-treatment by Azov.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has also in 2018 reported on Azov’s campaign to train far-right militants from abroad, and on its far-right training camps for children as young as nine years. In 2021, Time magazine reported that Azov has ”a central role in a network of extremist groups stretching from California across Europe to New Zealand, according to law enforcement officials on three continents”, and that the organisation “through its online propaganda, has fueled a global ideology of hate that now inspires more terrorist attacks in the U.S. than Islamic extremism does and is a growing threat throughout the Western world”. As one example, it noted that an arm of the Azov movement helped distribute the manifesto of the perpetrator of the Christchurch shooting, where 51 Muslims were massacred while in prayer in a mosque in New Zealand.

There are many more similar reports.

The values of Azov, which Ponomarenko is openly associated with and has promoted, could hardly be further from the World Village Festival’s stated principles of equality, justice and non-discrimination, and its core values, which include diversity, equality and responsibility. His appearance at the event is in dire contradiction with Fingo’s vision of a just world for everyone, and its values of “courage and proactivity in taking a stand”.

When one of the undersigned organisations approached the leadership of the World Village Festival, Fingo executive and the Fingo board, they replied that they had contacted the Finnish Foreign Ministry, who told them that Ponomarenko “strongly denies any claims of spreading extremist ideologies”. They also pointed to Ponomarenko’s article where he explains why some Ukrainian soldiers wear Nazi symbols as evidence that he does not support the far-right. However, the article rather shows how he whitewashes the far-right: for example, Ponomarenko alleges that Azov stopped being far-right in 2015-16, in stark contrast to the reports cited above. Fingo also suggested that claims that Ponomarenko has supported the far-right are “propaganda spread by bots”.

We are shocked by this lack of responsibility and seriousness about the far-right shown by Fingo and the World Village Festival. We call on them to stand by their own principles and values, cancel the appearance by Illia Ponomarenko, and affirm their opposition to far-right ideologies and groups.


Sumud – The Finnish Palestine Network ry 
Colectivo Armadillo Suomi 
Debt for Climate 
Demokraattinen sivistysliitto ry 
Earthbound Lovers 
Feminist Culture House 
ICAHD Finland ry 
Kairos Helsinki 
Kiila ry 
Kommunistinuoret ry 
NO NIIN Magazine 
Palestiinalaisten siirtokuntayhdistys ry 
POC-lukupiiri ry 
Ruskeat Tytöt ry 
SKP – Punainen sateenkaari 
Students for Palestine Finland 
Ubuntu Film Club 

Vantaan Rauhanpuolustajat ry