The Crimean indicator of the position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate) regarding the war


How Russia saved the world on the territory of Ukraine

On April 25, 2022, the clergyman of the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate), the deacon of Sevastopol, Serhiy Khalyuta, gave an interview to the Russian pro-government media resource “Nezavisimoe televidenije Sevastopol” [1]. The video recording of the interview was initially posted on YouTube, but it was later removed because it violated the rules of this video hosting.

The title of the interview is very eloquent – “In Ukraine, Russians are saving the world today – Sevastopol priest Serhiy Khaluta”. Although the actual video recording is no longer available today due to its removal by video hosting YouTube, the key part of the interview is available in text format on the Spiritual Front of Ukraine website[2].

During the conversation with the journalist, Khalyuta repeated all the classic theses that Russian propaganda has been using since 2014 to deny the existence of the Ukrainian people and justify armed aggression against Ukraine:

– Ukraine and Russia constitute “one Russia” regardless of interstate borders;

– Ukrainians and Russians constitute a “one/triune nation” because they came from “a single font of baptism” (Khalyut cites this idea as an analogy to the Christian concept of the triune God);

– Nazi ideology reigns in modern Ukraine;

– the blame for the war in Ukraine lies with the “external forces of the West” who refused to sign the document on the non-expansion of NATO to the east, thereby “provoking” the start of hostilities.

Also, Khalyuta actually called the Russian military the personification of Christianity, assured them of their high level of humanity and noted that the church supports them and takes care of them, including during their stay on the territory of Ukraine. In addition, he said that clerics bring humanitarian aid to the occupied territories (parts of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, Mariupol). At the same time, the already documented mass war crimes of the Russian army in Ukraine were hushed up, as well as the fact that it was precisely because of Russian armed aggression that part of the territory of Ukraine found itself in a humanitarian crisis and in need of help.

The specified manipulative techniques are designed to create categorical anti-Ukrainian sentiments in the audience and to convince them that Russia’s attack on Ukraine is just and legitimate, and that the Russian army and the Russian church are behaving exceptionally nobly and are engaged in saving the civilian population.

Why it deserves attention

In terms of its content, Khalyuta’s interview is an average propaganda product, countless of which appear on Kremlin-controlled resources. However, it needs attention given the context in which it was made.

First, the main target audience of the interview is residents of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the vast majority of whom are citizens of Ukraine. In their eyes, such content distorts the truth about the war and fosters hatred towards other Ukrainians, at the same time encouraging the justification of the criminal actions of the Russian political elite and the army. In addition, presenting the activities of the Russian Armed Forces as a noble cause can serve to motivate the Crimeans to serve as part of them, that is, to help the occupying power in the implementation of conscription campaigns on the territory of the peninsula. We would like to remind you that the conscription of the population of the occupied territory into the ranks of the occupying state is categorically prohibited by international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime. This ideological treatment of the Crimeans is, among other things, a means of complicating the further de-occupation of the peninsula and its reintegration into Ukraine.

Secondly, the Simferopol Diocese, in which Khalyuta serves, is under the direct authority of the Kyiv Metropolitanate of the UOC (MP). In particular, on the official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) the dioceses of this structure include the Simferopol diocese [3]. Official representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) also openly stated this circumstance[4]. Thus, according to church subordination, Serhii Khalyuta is subordinate to the leadership of the UOC (MP), including its head – Metropolitan Onufriy.

The position of the UOC (MP) regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war

On February 24, 2022, the head of the UOC (MP), Metropolitan Onufriy, publicly condemned the armed invasion of Russia and expressed support for the Ukrainian people and the Armed Forces of Ukraine[5].

On February 28, 2022, the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) made a statement about the war. Among other things, it contains words about support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine[6].

Such statements, the sound of which is completely true, should, at the same time, be considered together with the general position of the UOC (MP) regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war, which began in February 2014 with the occupation of Crimea.

During the eight years of the war, a huge array of different, often completely incompatible statements and actions could be observed from the ministers of this religious structure at all levels. In essence, the position came down to trying to please both sides of the conflict – both the side that launched an aggressive war of aggression and the side that is forced to defend against it.

For example, as early as March 3, 2014, Metropolitan Augustyn, head of the Synodal Department for Cooperation with the Armed Forces and other military formations of Ukraine, commenting on the introduction of Russian troops into Crimea, noted that he blesses Ukrainian servicemen to defend their country with weapons in their hands[7].

At the same time, the head of the Simferopol Diocese, Metropolitan Lazar (Shvets), who is also a member of the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP), immediately after the occupation blessed the illegal occupation government, and throughout the eight years of the war, he showed emphatic loyalty to it[8]. In addition, on April 2, 2015, Metropolitan Lazar, on behalf of the Crimean Diocese of the UOC (MP), signed an agreement on cooperation with the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation[9], which is still in force today, while this fleet is involved in waging an aggressive war against Ukraine .

In 2017, Metropolitan Platon of the UOC (MP) consecrated the Russian S-400 “Triumph” anti-aircraft missile system in Crimea[10].

In 2019, the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) consecrated Archimandrite Kalynynyk, who in 2014 actively supported the separatists in the occupation of Crimea, to the rank of bishop.

That is, we see how the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP), while in some places declaring support for Ukraine, at the same time systematically tolerates the actions of its subordinates, which are clearly aimed at approving international crimes committed by the Russian Federation. There was no official statement of the synod or even of the superior regarding the assessment of the mentioned actions of Metropolitan Lazar, Metropolitan Platon, Archimandrite (now bishop) Kalinnyk, Archpriest Serhii Khalyuta and similar actions of other persons. These people were also not subject to internal disciplinary responsibility within the church structure, despite the fact that their actions obviously contain gross violations from the point of view of the teachings of the church itself.

In particular, there is such a document as the “Social Concept of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” [11], which reflects the basic provisions of church teaching regarding relations with the state and society. Among other things, it says that an Orthodox Christian is called to love his Motherland, which has a territorial dimension, and his blood brothers who live all over the world. Such love is one of the ways of fulfilling God’s commandment to love one’s neighbors, which includes love for one’s family, fellow tribesmen and fellow citizens (point II.3). The Social Concept also states that from a Christian point of view, the concept of moral truth in international relations should be based on the following basic principles: love for one’s neighbors, one’s people, and the Motherland; understanding the needs of other nations; conviction that one cannot serve the good of one’s people by immoral means (item VIII. 3).

It is not at all difficult to understand that cooperation with a state waging an aggressive war of aggression against Ukraine, public support of its army (which commits brutal war crimes against Ukrainians) and consecration of its weapons maliciously violates the Christian principle of love for one’s neighbor, in particular, for one’s people and the Motherland .

Therefore, the mentioned actions of Khalyuta, Platon, Lazar, Kalinnyk and other similar actions should be unequivocally condemned by the church leadership in view of their violation of basic Christian principles. But despite this, these persons continue to hold their church positions with impunity, cooperate with the occupation authorities and approve their crimes against Ukraine.

What does history tell us? Examples of the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda

The history of totalitarian regimes knows many cases when religious figures took their side and actively or tacitly agreed to justify grave and obvious crimes.

During the time of Nazi rule in Germany, a whole constellation of theologians was formed who developed pseudo-theological concepts aimed at legitimizing the ideology of the ruling regime, including its anti-Semitic component. It included, in particular, Karl Schmidt, Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, Emanuel Hirsch. Kittel was even prosecuted after the war, but did not live to see the case completed.

One of the leading secular propagandists of the Reich – editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Der Stürmer” Julius Streicher, who was sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Tribunal, did not shy away from pseudo-religious arguments. An interesting fact is that the court did not find any case of violence against Jews by Streicher personally, but noted his significant contribution to the formation and implementation of the ideology that led to the Holocaust. In particular, among the materials published in “Der Stürmer” were articles that, with the help of pseudo-religious arguments, formed the reader’s hatred of the Jewish people and depicted Jews as enemies[12]. At the same time, the authors of the materials used manipulative false references to church doctrine and the Holy Scriptures.

Unfortunately, the contribution to the ideological basis for the Holocaust remains a blot on the history of Christianity in Germany. As noted Holocaust researcher Doris Bergen put it: “Christianity played an important role, perhaps not in motivating the top decision-makers, but in making their orders understandable and acceptable.”

The Rwandan genocide of the Tutsi people was also not without the contribution of church leaders. Historically, the Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations of Rwanda have had a close relationship with state institutions, marked by a significant mutual influence of church and secular authorities. Church figures either independently occupied positions in power structures, or had a significant influence on the process of appointing officials. Similarly, secular power often influenced the processes of formation of the hierarchy of church structures. In addition, on the ground, church structures had a very serious influence and authority among the broad strata of the population, as at a certain point they turned into centers for the distribution of vital resources – the church created schools, hospitals, workplaces, was engaged in the supply of food and humanitarian aid. Accordingly, the church’s voice was powerful both in state structures and in local communities. And when the critical moment came, this voice had the opportunity and moral obligation to speak out against total violence and mass murder. But the voice did not sound[13].

One of the main claims against the church structures of Rwanda, along with the accusation of individual ministers as direct participants in the genocide, concerns its silent tolerance or justification.

In 2017, at a meeting with the president of Rwanda and his wife, Pope Francis made an official apology for the involvement of the Catholic clergy in the Tutsi genocide[14].

It is noteworthy that the accusation of church ministers in Germany and Rwanda has two aspects – the aspect of active legitimization and the aspect of tolerance. We see the same in Ukraine today – some actively incite, while others tolerate it.

What’s next?

It is already obvious that the Russian government and army are committing the most serious war crimes and crimes against humanity on the territory of Ukraine. The international community is increasingly confident that the actions of the Russians contain signs of genocide. The time will come when these crimes will be given an unequivocal moral and legal assessment. And, of course, the question of evaluating the actions of not only the direct perpetrators, but also those who created the ideological basis for crimes, made them morally acceptable, will arise. And also those who tolerated the instigators, although they had both the opportunity and the duty to oppose them.

Currently, the top leadership of the Kyiv Metropolitanate of the UOC (MP) still has an opportunity and some time to change its position and save its moral reputation. No judgments have yet been made and no studies have been written. And the Crimean issue is a very revealing indicator in this process.

Mykola KIKKAS,

lawyer, lawyer of the Regional Center for Human Rights



[1] https://nts-tv.com/news/na-ukraine-russkie-segodnya-spasayut-ves-mir-blago-40893/

[2] https://df.news/2022/04/26/z-natsyzm-sevastopolskyj-blahochynnyj-upts-mp-nash-rosijskyj-voin-tse-khrystyianstvo/?amp=

[3] https://church.ua/jeparxiji/

[4] https://www.ukrinform.ua/rubric-crimea/2305731-v-upc-zaavlaut-so-pro-perehid-krimskoi-eparhii-do-rpc-ne-jdetsa.html

[5] https://news.church.ua/2022/02/24/zvernennya-blazhennishogo-mitropolita-kijivskogo-vsijeji-ukrajini-onufriya-virnix-ta-gromadyan-ukrajini/

[6] https://news.church.ua/2022/02/28/zvernennya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-28-lyutogo-2022-roku/

[7] https://bilatserkva.church.ua/2014/03/03/mitropolit-avgustin-markevich-blagoslovlyayu-nashe-vijsko-na-zaxist-batkivshhini/

[8] https://ru.krymr.com/a/26864532.html


[9] Крым без правил. Тематический обзор ситуации с правами человека в Крыму. Религиозная оккупация: притеснения Украинской православной церкви Киевского патриархата. С. 21


[10] https://www.religion.in.ua/news/vazhlivo/35320-mitropolit-upc-osvyativ-v-krimu-rosijskij-zenitno-raketnij-kompleks.html

[11] http://orthodox.org.ua/page/sots%D1%96alna-kontsepts%D1%96ya

[12] Conceptualizing christianity and christian nazis after the nuremberg trials. Michael Lackey. Cultural Critique. Vol. 84 (Spring 2013), pp. 101-133. Published by: University of Minnesota Press

[13] Church Politics and the Genocide in Rwanda. Timothy Longman. Journal of Religion in Africa.Vol. 31, Fasc. 2, Religion and War in the 1990s (May, 2001), pp. 163-186 (24 pages)https://www.jstor.org/stable/1581515?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A9a3c4f7e2ab2afb26301299e7a9ea8cf&seq=2

[14] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/pope-francis-asks-for-forgiveness-for-churchs-role-in-rwanda-genocide



Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: