Illia Ponomarenko takes a photo with a mobile phone inside a building destroyed in the war.
Photo: Volodymyr Petrov.

World Village Festival Talks and Discussions programme speaker Illia Ponomarenko denies allegations of extremism

Hosted by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs at World Village Festival, Ukrainian war journalist Illia Ponomarenko has faced allegations of belonging to Azov, a group associated with extremism. Enquiries into the matter have not found any evidence indicating that Ponomarenko should not participate in the festival.

Illia Ponomarenko is scheduled to appear at the festival as a well-known and internationally respected journalist hosted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to discuss information influence in the context of the war in Ukraine, not as a representative or proponent of any group or body other than Ukraine and its people, which he as a Ukrainian of course also represents.

Ponomarenko has directly denied his involvement in Azov or any other far-right movement or ideology. For example, he posted the following on X on 28 June 2022:

–  I’ve never been linked, officially or non-officially, with anything like the Azov. By any means.

He commented on the allegations to the festival organiser and to the sponsor of his visit, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in his message in April 2024:

– It’s somewhat strange for me to hear such things about myself. I’ve been a public figure for years and have never been known to support or spread any extremist ideologies, especially anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, or racism.

However, Ponomarenko says he is fully aware of, for example, bots spreading propaganda associating false allegations with him on social media. The theme of Ponomarenko’s appearance at the festival – information influence in the context of war – is therefore also reflected in his own profile as a person.

Salla Peltonen, Communications Director at Fingo, the organiser of World Village Festival, comments on the matter:

– We’ve made every effort to look into the allegations made against Ponomarenko. We have no knowledge of any evidence on the basis of which he should be excluded from the festival programme. As far as we know, he hasn’t been prosecuted or sentenced for war crimes or any other offences, and he has also personally publicly denied the alleged far-right linkages.

The festival’s role is to provide a platform for many-voiced debate promoting the realisation of global justice. All of the festival’s performers, exhibitors and other participants must make a commitment to the principles of anti-harassment and non-discrimination.  Everything said and done must be respectful of equality, justice and non-discrimination.

The matter has been raised in a statement signed by 21 organisations headed by Sumud – The Finnish Palestine Network and circulated to the media. Helsinki Times has also reported on the topic.

More information

Fingo’s Communications Director Salla Peltonen, 358 50 317 6710,

Promotion photos at Flickr
More information for media


World Village Festival is Finland’s leading event for global action for the whole family, an admission free cultural festival, and a trade fair for sustainable development. The event will be organised in the Suvilahti event venue, Helsinki, in 25–26 May 2024 with Courage as the theme. Festival’s core values are diversity, equality, responsibility, and communality. The event is expected to attract around 50,000 festivalgoers. Admission to all events is free. The festival organiser is Finnish Development NGOs Fingo and the main partners are Finn Church Aid, the European Commission Representation in Finland, the European Parliament Liaison Office in Finland, Radio Helsinki and Maailman Kuvalehti magazine.