On March 12, Russian Evangelical Alliance leader Vitaly Vlasenko apologized to Ukraine for his government’s actions and asked for forgiveness and solidarity on the road ahead.
“I mourn what my country did during its recent military invasion of another sovereign country, Ukraine,” Vlasenko wrote in an open letter. “In the worst case, I could not imagine what is currently observed.”
Such a statement is not without risk for Vlasenko, as Russia has banned the dissemination of “fake news” – any information that goes against the government’s own rhetoric. Officially, the Russian military is conducting a “special military operation” and Vlasenko notably avoided the phrase, calling it an “invasion” and a “conflict” instead. He also referred to Ukrainian fears of “demilitarization” and “occupation”. Such terminology could get him in trouble with the local authorities. As Christianity Today notes, a Russian Orthodox priest was recently fined 35,000 rubles (about $261) for criticizing Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.
Vlasenko laments his inability to end the invasion, writing, “Everything I could do to prevent the war, I did. I apologize to everyone who suffered.” That appears to be the case, as Vlasenko spent the days leading up to the Russian invasion on the border amplifying Ukrainian calls for peace and meeting with religious leaders in Ukraine. and other European countries, calling for prayer and fasting.
Vlasenko joins a growing movement of Russian citizens protesting the actions of their military and challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin’s notion of Ukrainian liberation. Images of Russian police cracking down on protests have flooded social media. Earlier this week, an employee of Russian state television blocked the local broadcast with a sign reading “NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They lie to you here. Her lawyers say she has since disappeared.
“Two peoples closely tied to each other, many of whom are deeply devoted to the (mainly Orthodox) Christian faith, are now in a fierce battle,” Vlasenko wrote. “Peaceful feelings are destroyed amid shelling and shelling.”
March 12, 2022
To my dear brothers and sisters around the world:
As General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, I deplore what my country did during its recent military invasion of another sovereign country, Ukraine.
For me, like for many other Christians, the military invasion was a shock. In the worst case, I couldn’t imagine what we are seeing in Ukraine now. Two closely related peoples, many of whom are deeply devoted to the (mainly Orthodox) Christian faith, are currently engaged in a bitter battle – one pursuing the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine, the other seeking save their country from occupation.
Many Russians and Ukrainians have close family ties in the opposite country. A Russian can have daughters and grandchildren living in kyiv; a Ukrainian can have children living and working in Moscow. Today, pain, fear and deep sorrow for their loved ones and for the future of their own lives and countries pierce the hearts of many people like lightning, because since World War II no one knows what may be the limits of war and its consequences. to be.
Today, soldiers on both sides are dying. Peaceful feelings are being destroyed amid shelling and shelling, and a stream of heightened attention has rushed across Europe in the form of refugees: women, the elderly and children.
All these events cause me deep sadness, bitterness and regret for the decisions made by the leaders of my country, and great compassion for those who suffer as a result of this decision.
Everything I could do to prevent war, I did to try to stop this military invasion:
• In my capacity as General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, I wrote an open letter to President Vladimir Putin on the eve of the invasion, in which I supported the demand of the religious leaders of Ukraine for a peaceful solution to all conflicts.
• We initiated fasting and prayer for peace and harmony between Russia and Ukraine.
• Our Alliance took part in public prayer alongside Russian, Ukrainian and European leaders for the reconciliation of all parties.
• The Russian Evangelical Alliance provided humanitarian aid to more than 500 Ukrainian refugees stationed in southern Russia.
• We launched a roundtable and subsequent international conference on the theme of military and political conflict.
Today, as a citizen and General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, I apologize to all who have suffered, lost loved ones and loved ones, or lost their place of residence as a result of this military conflict. . My prayer is that you will find the strength of the Lord to extend the hand of solidarity and forgiveness, so that we can live as the people of God in our world.
May our Heavenly Father help us all.
With deep respect, your brother in the Lord,