Russia's government pressure on religious leaders to support Ukraine war

05 August, 16:27
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Russia's government pressure on religious leaders to support Ukraine war - фото 1
Russia's government has used a range of tactics to pressure religious leaders into supporting Vladimir Putin's renewed invasion of Ukraine from 24 February. These tactics include warnings to senior and local religious leaders, and prosecuting and fining religious believers and clergy who have publicly opposed the war. It is unclear what effect this has had on religious believers who may have considered making a public protest against the war. Similar warnings and prosecutions have been used against many Russians who express opposition to the war for any reason.

Source: Forum18

Two senior religious leaders – both of whom felt they had to leave Russia - have stated that they and other religious leaders came under pressure not to discuss or condemn Russia's renewed war against Ukraine. Lutheran Bishop Dietrich Brauer, who left Russia for Germany in March, said that, at the start of the war, President Putin's administration made "a clear demand" of religious leaders to speak out in favour of the invasion.

The Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is now in Israel, also left Russia under pressure in March because of his opposition to the war. "As the terrible war against Ukraine unfolded over the last few months, I could not remain silent, viewing so much human suffering," he said on Twitter on 7 July. "As time progressed, it became clear that the Jewish community of Moscow would be endangered by me remaining in my position".

In March, as Russia's war against Ukraine was intensifying, the FSB security service warned local religious leaders not to publicly oppose the war. In one region, a Protestant pastor noted, at least three fellow pastors received such individual warnings. "Such warnings don't take place now," the pastor told Forum 18 on 15 July. "Those [March warnings] were enough for everyone".

Other religious figures - including Patriarch Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate, Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, Old Believer Metropolitan Kornily, and Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky of the Pentecostal Union - have supported Russia's war against Ukraine.

While many religious organisations in Russia still support the invasion of Ukraine, small numbers of laypeople and clergy continue to protest from an explicitly religious perspective. Like thousands of other Russians who every day voice their opposition to the war in public spaces and online, they are soon detained by police and frequently prosecuted and fined.

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Many of the religious believers who have opposed the war have been Russian Orthodox, both of the Moscow Patriarchate and other branches. Like Lutheran Bishop Brauer and Chief Rabbi of Moscow Goldschmidt, some have had to leave Russia because they oppose the war.

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