Russia puts religious leaders under pressure to support the war


Eastern Europe


Russian churches (the Orthodox included) are under pressure from politics to comply with the "situation" in Ukraine. Photo CNE.news, Evert van Vlastuin

The Russian state not just expects religious leaders to support the "special operation" in Ukraine. There are also witnesses of active pressure to clarify the limits.

In an article, Forum18 sums up what action the Russian government takes. According to the organisation for religious freedom, the Kremlin gives slight hints and clear warnings to local clerics. If somebody crosses the boundaries, there are fines and prosecutions.

The article refers to two leaders who have left Russia: Jewish Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt and Lutheran Bishop Dietrich Brauer.

According to Goldschmidt's daughter-in-law, Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, the Rabbi and his wife were "put under pressure by the authorities to publicly support the 'special military operation' – and refused." What concrete form that pressure had, is not clear.

Ioann Burdin was fined because of his doubt about the operation. Photo AFP, Yuri Kadobnov

Bishop Brauer speaks about a "clear demand" from the Presidential Administration to support the war. "We were not allowed to talk about the war, pray for peace or contact our Ukrainian brothers and sisters", Brauer said in an interview in Germany. Also, Brauer does not mention what form that "clear demand" had; whether it was a phone call or a visit and from whom.

In May, Brauer was removed from the Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations. The Bishop was already back in Germany then.

Enough for everyone

In March, just weeks after the invasion, the FSB security service warned local religious leaders not to oppose the war publicly, Forum18 reported. In one region, a Protestant pastor noted that at least two colleagues received individual visits from FSB officers, who brought the message over. Also, a church was visited by the security service. "Such warnings don't take place now", the pastor told Forum18 in July. The earlier warnings "were enough for everyone".

The most well-known religious leaders still support President Putin's operation in Ukraine, from the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill to the Pentecostal Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky.


On June 7th, Priest Ioann Kurmoyaorv from St Petersburg was arrested because of critical videos about the military operation. A spokesperson from the court speaks to the press about a "criminal activity" and spreading "knowingly false information".

Already in March, Father Ioann Burdin received a fine from the court because of stressing the sixth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) in the context of the invasion. He sees the verdict as a "ban on professing one's religious beliefs" and has gone for appeal.

In April, Deacon Sergey Shcherbyuk was fined for "discrediting the Russian armed forces". In the same month, Priest Nikolay Platonov asked to be relieved of his duties. He had made a critical video, and now "our church hierarchy will inevitably want to get rid of me". According to him, a priest who speaks the truth on sensitive matters "automatically becomes a paedophile, or a thief, or a drug addict."



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