In the highest-profile statement yet of its kind, the leader of the Russian Evangelical Alliance has announced his “bitterness and regret” over decisions taken by his government.
Will it be enough to rebuild bridges with fellow Ukrainian believers across the border?
“I mourn what my country has done in its recent military invasion of another sovereign country, Ukraine,” stated REA general secretary Vitaly Vlasenko in a March 12 open letter. “In the worst-case scenario, I could not imagine what is now being observed.”
His language is precise, but also careful.
On March 4, the Russian parliament amended its criminal code to impose prison terms for up to 15 years for spreading “fake news” that “discredits” the military.
Notably, Vlasenko did not use the Russian government’s designated label of “special military operation” to describe the violence in Ukraine. Utilizing “conflict” and “invasion” instead, he avoided describing it—though he did imply—with terms that have been officially banned, such as “war.” And alongside recognition of Ukraine’s fear of “occupation,” he cited Russia’s goal of “demilitarization.”
Two days earlier, a Russian court fined an Orthodox priest 35,000 rubles [$261] for discrediting the army during his Sunday sermon. His congregation helped pay the fine.
Russian media lawyers are debating whether the law prevents citizens from questioning the “special military operation” or calling for it to end.
Vlasenko’s statement [full text below] toes the line.
“Everything I could do to prevent war, I did,” Vlasenko lamented. “I apologize to all those who have suffered.” Chief among his efforts was…
This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on March 14, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.