‘Ukraine’ is a sensitive subject among Russian Protestants


Eastern Europe


Photo EPA, Yuri Kochetkov

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine also affects Protestant churches in Russia. Many bishops and pastors call for peace, but so far, there has not been a sharp condemnation of the invasion.

“Something terrible has happened”, bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky says at the beginning of his four-minute studio speech. He is the leader of Russia’s largest evangelical denomination, ROSChVE. “The conflict that has been slumbering in the Donbas for more than eight years, now covers a much wider area: explosions are heard, shots are fired, and people are dying”, Ryakhovsky explains. “Whatever the reasons, war is a terrible evil.”

Ryakhovsky labels the conflict as “fratricide” as “the Russian and Ukrainian peoples have been united through centuries of history and the evangelical churches of our countries have been united for a long time: many missionaries from Ukraine today are pastors and bishops of Russian churches. I am convinced that this will also contribute to a speedy reconciliation.”

“I am sure that all evangelical churches will become centres of aid to those in need during this difficult time,” the bishop continues. Many ROSChVE congregations in the Rostov region are already assisting refugees from the Donbas. Ryakovsky calls for prayers and fasts.

Eduard Grabovenko, leader of the HVE, another major evangelical denomination in Russia, did the same. He called for fasting and prayer for the Church’s readiness to serve, to be the “light and salt”, and above all, to fast and pray for peace. “Let us not forget that the hearts of kings and rulers are in His hand.”


Nevertheless, there is criticism from Ukraine over the reactions of many pastors and bishops in Russia. A Russian bishop, Pavel Ivanovich, subtly blamed Western countries for their “democracy” and “values” that they come to impose on everyone. Then, with an “innocent face”, they fail to keep their promises. These countries do not understand Russia, he said. “In Russia, honour and dignity matter.”

In all this, according to Ivanovich, the most important thing is that Russians do not lose their patriotism and do not start to say: “I am ashamed of my country”. “Why were you not ashamed to travel to those countries with their ‘values’,” he said. “War is always caused by complicated factors, but is it possible that God's good intentions are behind it ,” he wrote on Instagram. This annoyed Ukrainians, who left angry comments.

Bishop Ivanovich expressed what many Russian pastors and bishops think, but few dare to write. On the one hand, war is never good. But on the other hand, no one wants Ukraine to be left to the “Western liberal norms and values” imposed by “America”. Despite the war, Putin is seen as a defender of the Christian faith.


Yevgeni Bachmutsky, a registered Baptist pastor in Moscow, said: “My soul mourns, my heart is bursting with horror and shame, my mind is shaken by human madness.” In moments like these, faithful become very vulnerable, Bachmutsky said. “Out of desperation and impotence, we can suspect and condemn our brothers and sisters and touch them with evil and thoughtless terms.”

However, according to Bachmutsky, “we are not politicians; we are children of God”. He refers to the political discussions that the war in Ukraine certainly provokes in many: “Sometimes it is better, friends, to keep quiet and cry together.”

“I pray that the day will soon come when our Lord Jesus returns to this earth to judge the nations,” Bachmutsky quoted Micah (4:3): “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”


This week, the unregistered Baptists in Russia published a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin calling for an end to this war. The letter was signed by church leaders in all the former Soviet countries. “We propose to stop and sit down at the negotiating table to find a peaceful solution,” they wrote.

The wording was cautious: “May the Lord, as the head of a world power, give you the wisdom to find a peaceful solution and happiness, prosperity to bring real protection to many people in Russia, Ukraine and other countries.”

This article was translated by CNE.news and previously published by Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on March 2nd, 2022.



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