Russian Christians want to integrate annexed Ukrainian congregations into Russia


Eastern Europe


The priest, Nikolay, reacts near a damaged church in the Ruska Lozova village in Kharkiv's area, Ukraine. Photo EPA, Sergey Kozlov

Several Christian organisations in Russia are preparing to integrate Ukrainian believers from the illegally annexed territories into their religious organisations. Of all Protestant churches, Pentecostals seem the most loyal to the Kremlin.

The Russian Union of Pentecostals, ROSKhVE, will consider the creation of one or more diocesan administrations in the territories "that have expressed a desire to join the Russian Federation in referendums", the ruling bishop of the union, Sergei Ryakhovsky, told Russian state-owned press agency RIA Novosti. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin staged so-called referendums in the regions Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, which are not all completely occupied by Russian forces. The international community condemned these referendums as a sham. At times, the referendums involved armed soldiers going door to door to gather votes, writes the BBC.

Still, the Russian Pentecostals want to create Russian departments in the Ukrainian regions. These departments should make it easier for churches to appeal for membership of ROSKhVE. Ryakhovsky thinks that there are a lot of evangelical believers in these territories. "According to various estimates, 10 to 25 per cent of the population", Ryakhovsky told RIA Novosti. The head bishop referred to 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea. Back then, ROSKhVE took a similar path.


The Russian Orthodox Church created a special commission to deal with the fate of parishes in the annexed territories, the Union of Orthodox Journalists wrote. According to RIA Novosti, the commission currently oversees parishes in the CIS countries; these countries are former Soviet republics. Now, the commission will also manage parishes in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Moscow Patriarchate, meanwhile, condemns the war. In a statement, the Church "calls on its flock, through prayer and good deeds, to help the Motherland (Ukraine) defend peace in all its territories". While the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Moscow's leadership still controls the parishes that are controlled by Ukrainian forces, the parishes in annexed territories are now directly under Moscow's supervision.

According to Vladimir Legoyda, the chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Relations of the ROC, the "entry" of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, Luhansk Peoples Republic, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson region into the Russian Federation is a tectonic shift in the world order. "The Russian Church, despite the fact that external forces provoked a division in the space of historical Russia, will continue his prayer for peace and unity of peoples who have common spiritual roots and are called to brotherly love and harmony," Legoyda told RIA Novosti.



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