By Mark Ellis
The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea as the “Anschluss of the Crimea” in an address last week and said Putin “used the tool of the devil—he mixed the truth with falsehood.”
Patriarch Filaret Denysenko said, “I am sure that half-truth from the mouth of the Russian leader that the whole world heard is worse than outright lies—as hidden poison in food is more dangerous than obvious poison.”
He said Russia’s leaders violated three of the Ten Commandments: Do not kill; Do not bear false witness against your neighbor; Do not covet your neighbor’s house … (and) anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:15-17).
The Patriarch also attacked Russian “provocateurs,” who are inciting civil conflict in the eastern and southern regions of Ukraine.
“In the occupied Crimea community activists disappear without a trace,” he charged. Those who were released bore witness to cruel and inhuman treatment at the hands of the Russians, including constant humiliation, death threats, and simulation of execution.
“The Russian leadership is personally responsible for all this,” he declared.
While Putin considers “the disintegration of the totalitarian USSR a ‘tragic event,’ he (Putin) didn’t say that in Ukraine, including the Crimea and Sevastopol, most people on December 1, 1991 at a public referendum without any coercion supported the independence of Ukraine.”
“He did not mention a single word about the obligation not only to respect but also to guarantee the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of borders of Ukraine, taken over by the Russian Federation according to Budapest Memorandum of 1994 and the Treaty of Friendship of 1997.”
The Patriarch said Putin’s actions challenge the entire system of international law. “Now, according to Russian authorities, any dispute in the “zone of interests” of the Kremlin can be solved by military force and other means of pressure — ignoring the very principles of law and justice, the interstate and international agreements, the opinion of the world community.”
Putin justified his aggression to protect “Russian-speaking people.” But there are many other countries with sizeable Russian-speaking populations – Belarus, the Baltic States, Poland, Finland, Moldova, the Caucasus and Central Asia countries. All of them are potentially at risk, the patriarch noted.
The justifications made by Putin bring to mind events leading up to World War II. He used terms such as “Russian world,” “historical Russia,” “Russia is a divided nation,” “Ukrainians and we are one people,” All this “is a replica of the ideology and rhetoric of the fascist regimes of the twentieth century, particularly in Germany and Italy,” the Patriarch stated.
Putin also managed the news coverage in Russia to misrepresent reality, the church leader charged. The Russian media was dispensing “half-truths and outright lies about the events in Ukraine, while blocking access to any alternative point of view. The Russian authorities — as before the authorities of the fascist states — deceived its own people that mostly welcomes and approves its criminal acts,” he said.
Patriarch Denysenko then issued a strong challenge to the people of Ukraine. “Our country is treacherously attacked by the enemy, who occupied part of Ukraine and seeks to destroy all our statehood and independence, and return us to the Kremlin imperial yoke. So, sacred duty of each of us is to help protect our common Ukrainian House from the attacker.
“We must unite,” he continued, “because only in unity is the power of the people. Actions of the Ukrainian state can cause criticism, but remember: the occupation authorities will not allow any criticism.”
The Patriarch said he bears no malice toward the Russian people and hopes in the future they will have friendly relations.
“I appeal again to the international community: the time for declarations of deep concern expired long ago. It’s time to act. So I welcome early signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU, giving Ukraine the prospect of EU membership — as a guarantee of peace not only in our country but also in the whole Europe.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God! We pray and ask God to protect our country and people from the invasion of strangers, we ask the Lord to strengthen Ukraine with invisible force in the struggle for justice, freedom and peace.”
“I call all the faithful to this prayer and firmly believe that the Ukrainian people will win in this fight.”