Pro-Ukraine protesters were left feeling "disgusted" yesterday evening as they protested outside a private residence which the Russian ambassador had been invited to speak at.

The Oxford Russian Club allowed the ambassador, Andrey Kelin, to speak to their members and those who applied to attend in a short question and answer discussion.

Mr Kelin is a controversial figure, as previously he has denied that atrocities have taken place in Ukraine and has accused Britain of escalating the war in Ukraine.

Oxford Mail: Police keeping watch on the pro-Ukraine activistsPolice keeping watch on the pro-Ukraine activists (Image: Ed Halford)

Before the event even took place, Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds expressed concerns the ambassador was being “given a platform to speak on behalf of Vladimir Putin’s regime”.

She called for the event not to go ahead and instead suggested that a “dissident” from Russia or a “Ukrainian victim” should speak about the impact of the invasion.

Around 15 protesters stood outside a private house on Rawlinson Road in North Oxford and Russians and Ukrainians both spoke about their “disgust” that this event was allowed to go ahead.

Ukrainian students studying at the University of Oxford told the Oxford Mail that many of them had applied to attend the event but had been denied access.

Oxford Mail: Pro-Ukraine activist Anna HopePro-Ukraine activist Anna Hope (Image: Ed Halford)

One attendee said the session was not a genuine opportunity for people to ask the Russian ambassador questions or to challenge Mr Kelin on previous remarks he has made about the conflict.

Ada Wordsworth, 24, is a student at the University of Oxford and was “absolutely disgusted” that the ambassador had been given a platform to speak.

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Ms Wordsworth explained: “They claim this event represents free speech and they have the right to do this.

“But this is not true as I and other people wrote to them to try and get tickets.

“We were not given tickets, as what we all have in common is pro-Ukraine content on social media.”

Oxford Mail: The private residence where the ambassador was speakingThe private residence where the ambassador was speaking (Image: Ed Halford)

Ms Wordsworth suspended her Masters degree when the war in Ukraine broke out and started a charity called Kharpp.

This charity first started work on the Polish-Ukrainian border in March 2022 and supported refugees as they fled the war.

Since Kharkiv was liberated in September, Ms Wordsworth said the charity has focused on the reconstruction of buildings and homes in the city.

Katie Degtiareva, a Russian who fled Moscow and a student studying sociology and demography at Oxford University, said she “hated” that “some people will hear about Russia through this person”.

Oxford Mail: Bike with anti-Russia bannerBike with anti-Russia banner (Image: Ed Halford)

Ms Degtiareva said she was forced to flee her homeland because she regularly protested and became “very frightened” about the prospect of being arrested.


Oxford Mail: Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here Sign up to Ed Halford's free weekly Politics newsletter here (Image: Newsquest)

She explained: “I know it would be dangerous for me to go back to Russia because I keep on protesting and this is very sad because it is still my home.”

Ms Degtiareva said lots of Russians had been forced to run away from their homes and “leave everything behind”.

Ms Degtiareva explained that protesting in Russia was a very different experience, as you had to pack essentials such as food and water in case you were arrested.

She added: “It is nice to have a feeling that you are safe and the Russian ambassador is the person who is not welcome.”

Oxford Mail: The Russian ambassador's securityThe Russian ambassador's security (Image: Ed Halford)

Four policemen stood across the road from the residence and kept an eye on the protesters.

They helped clear the driveway so the ambassador’s car could depart when the event finished.

Reuben Wooley, 24, is a trained Russian and Ukrainian translator and he said the Oxford Russian Club had invited the ambassador for “clout” and had “used the image of Oxford University to promote the event”.

Mr Wooley said he decided to protest because as “someone who cares about Ukraine” he “felt a responsibility to do so”.

He added: “What is happening here is not something which should be accepted.”

Oxford Mail: Anti-Mr Kelin bannerAnti-Mr Kelin banner (Image: Katy Okuneva for FAR Oxford.)

The protest was also attended by Russians who are not students but who live in the city.

Katerina Kuzina, 35, works at the Oxford Science Park and she said it was important that people knew the club “did not represent the views of Russian people in Oxford”.

She explained: “I wanted to come and share solidarity with the Ukrainians, as the ambassador does not represent the majority of Russian people.”

Oxford Mail: Pro-Ukraine activistsPro-Ukraine activists (Image: Anna Hope for FAR Oxford)

When asked about whether this event should have been allowed to go ahead in the name of free speech, Ms Kuzina said: “I stand for freedom of speech but I don’t think it applies to justifying war crimes or justifying the Ukrainian genocide.”

The co-ordinator of Oxford’s feminist anti-war resistance, Anna Hope, 25, told the Oxford Mail the people who had chosen to attend the event “weren’t our audience”.

She reiterated Ms Kuzina’s comments by arguing that their presence outside the private residence was about showing the ambassador was not welcome in Oxford.

Oxford Mail: Pro-Ukraine activist Katie DegtiarevaPro-Ukraine activist Katie Degtiareva (Image: Ed Halford)

During the Q&A, attendees said the Russian ambassador accused the UK of escalating the war and Alex Kokcharov, a former president of the Oxford Russian Society, said the ambassador was “challenged”.

He explained: “I attended the event so I could ask him uncomfortable questions as I knew I couldn’t stop the event taking place.

“The ambassador answered questions diplomatically and he was obviously maintaining the official narratives”.

However, Mr Kokcharov said those who attended were presented with “two separate narratives clashing” and he said people could “decide for themselves what was factually correct”.

Mr Kokcharov said some in attendance were “openly supportive of Russian actions in Ukraine” but he highlighted that the “majority of the audience were quite combative”.

The University of Oxford has completely distanced itself from the club and has highlighted that it is not one of their “registered student societies”.

An Oxford University spokesman said the institution’s position on the war in Ukraine was “clear”.

He said: "The invitation to Mr Andrey Kelin has been given by the Oxford Russian Club and not by Oxford University or any of its registered student societies.

“The university’s position on the Ukrainian war is clear.

"Last April the university’s congregation passed a resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Alongside hosting Ukrainian families in our Oxford homes, we have also welcomed Ukrainian graduate students on scholarships over the last year and will do so again this year.”

The Oxford Russian Club and Russian embassy have been approached for comment.