Putin’s troops enter Ukraine, despite prayers for peace and threats of retaliation
The Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine on Thursday morning came despite days of diplomatic efforts and special pleas from religious leaders.
As recently as Tuesday, as Russian forces prepared to cross into eastern Ukraine for what President Putin originally described as peacekeeping missions, the World Council of Churches (COE), based in Geneva, called urgently for “an end to the dangerous geopolitical competition that has precipitated this crisis, for the de-escalation and reduction of tensions, and for respect for international law and established national borders.
The WCC statement called for a “peaceful resolution of long-standing tensions and divisions” within the framework of international law.
The military invasion early Thursday drew immediate condemnation from political leaders across the UK and around the world. President Joe Biden said: “Prayers from around the world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they come under an unprovoked and unwarranted attack by Russian military forces.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will result in catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.
“Russia bears sole responsibility for the death and destruction this attack will cause, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond united and decisively. The world will hold Russia accountable.
Boris Johnson said: “President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction in launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The UK and our allies will respond decisively.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said President Putin’s actions “will have horrific and tragic consequences which will reverberate around the world and throughout history”.
During an emergency session of the UN Security Council – chaired by Russia, which holds the rotating presidency – UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a direct appeal to the Russian President: “President Putin – prevent your troops from attacking Ukraine. Give peace a chance. Too many people are already dead.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced that Russia would be hit with “a massive and targeted set of sanctions” later Thursday. “We will freeze Russian assets in the EU and prevent Russian banks from accessing the European financial market. . . These sanctions are designed to weigh heavily on the interests of the Kremlin and its ability to finance the war.
Religious leaders in the region were more or less divided along national lines as the war approached. In a message earlier in the week, the head of the Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany Doumenko, accused the Kremlin of “extending its aggression, using the rhetoric of protecting Orthodoxy”, and said that the Russian occupation of Crimea and Donbass already showed how “Bloodshed, ruin, captivity and fear accompany the occupiers of the Kremlin”.
He continued: “For us, the people of Ukraine, there can be only one response to the Kremlin’s aggression: united resistance, protection of the homeland, freedom and dignity, struggle with the aggressor until victory is achieved. . The Ukrainian people may have different beliefs, but the Ukrainian state is one. History has repeatedly shown that only a sovereign and independent Ukraine is a space where citizens of different political views, ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs can remain free.
There was, however, an unusual unity with the primate of the Moscow-bound Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv. He warned on Monday that the war would be a “grave sin before God”, saying in a message on a website that his church had “constantly supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
A Pentecostal pastor and former Red Army soldier, Gennadiy Mokhnenko, who runs rehabilitation centers for orphans and drug addicts in Mariupol, also urged parents of Russian servicemen not to be “cheated by the bad guys in the Kremlin”.
In a post on the website, he said: “My own children saw war firsthand from their bedrooms for eight years – their whole childhood was war. Your sons could be thrown into a hellish massacre started by the Kremlin – and then even I, a pastor, will have no choice but to take up arms and defend my children.
Among other Ukrainian statements, the Muslim mufti of Crimea, Ayder Rustemov, urged Muslim soldiers in the Russian army to desert and return home, warning that a war would force them to “fight the Muslims who defend Ukraine and their homes, their families and their honour”.
In Moscow, however, the Deputy Director of the Patriarchate, Archbishop Savva Tutunov, on Monday welcomed President Putin’s address in which he said that modern Ukraine was “entirely created by Russia, and, more precisely, Russia Bolshevik, communist”, and had “never had a genuine state tradition”. This speech, Bishop Tutunov said, opened up “new horizons” for a modern Russian state. our perception of Russian history.
“We are no longer 30 or 100 – we are over 1000 again. Today the clock has been restarted and we very much hope that the President’s speech will mark the beginning of the treatment of our amnesia.
Bishop Tutunov is also the vicar of the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. In a message Wednesday for Defender of the Russian Fatherland Day, Patriarch Kirill hailed President Putin’s “high and responsible service to the Russian people,” saying the Russian Orthodox Church views the country’s armed forces as “demonstrating actively evangelical love for neighbors, and fidelity to high moral ideals of truth and goodness”.
“We honor the achievement of those who perform responsible military service, guard the borders of their native country and take care to strengthen its defense capacity and national security,” the patriarch told President Putin.
“Valour and courage, determination and ardent love for the fatherland and willingness to sacrifice – these qualities have distinguished our people for centuries.”