The End of Unity: How the Russian Orthodox Church Lost Ukraine

Regina Elsner is a Researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS).

Since the end of the Soviet Union, dozens of theologians and scholars of religion elaborated on the complicated relationship within the church community of the so-called Holy Rus’. The Moscow Patriarchate defines its territory of spiritual responsibility in the borders of the Soviet Union—except for the old churches of Armenia and Georgia. The core of this spiritual community is Kyiv as the place of baptism of Rus’ in 988 and Moscow as the residency of the head of the church, today Patriarch Kirill. Bitter as it is, the territory of the Soviet Union was always closer to the ecclesiastical understanding of this sacred territory than the Russian Federation and its independent neighbor states, and the Russian Orthodox Church made comprehensive theological, historiographical, and political efforts to design the unity of the people in a new way.


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Too Soon to Say: International Criminal Law’s Role in the Conflict in Ukraine

Michelle Coleman is a Lecturer in Law at Swansea University.

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a widescale invasion of Ukraine resulting in an ongoing armed conflict. Since that date, numerous sources have been quick to call for the investigation and possible prosecution of international crimes arising out of the conflict. These calls to action open questions about whether international criminal law is an appropriate tool during armed conflict and what investigation and prosecution might be able to accomplish.

International Criminal Law is a legal system designed to prosecute international crimes. General categories of international crimes include aggression, genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These crimes are defined by customary law and the International Criminal Court, although the specific range of international crimes available can vary and depends on the particular jurisdiction that is engaging in the prosecution. Russia has already been publicly accused of aggression for their invasion; however, this alleged crime is unlikely to be prosecuted due to jurisdiction issues. Beyond the possibility of aggression as an initial potential crime, other international crimes may or may not be committed during the conflict. The existence of armed conflict is not by itself a crime.


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Religion and the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict

Dr. Dmytro Vovk discusses the religious dimension of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict including the influence of religion on the conflict, threats to religious freedom in the territories affected by the conflict and church-state relations in Ukraine in the context of the conflict.

0:08 Religious context of the conflict

5:45 The Conflict and Russian Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine

8:15 Religious Freedom in Donbas and Crimea

15:41 Church-State relations in Ukraine and the conflict with Russi


Religious Context of the Conflict

In literature one can find a distinction between the peripheral and central influence of religion in wars and violent conflicts. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict has manifested a more peripheral influence, which relates to the loyalties and identities of the players in the conflict, as opposed to a more central influence, which deals with the political goals of combatant parties. We see that all parties in the conflict—Russia, Russia’s proxies in Donbas (so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics), and Ukraine—use religion to promote their own political agenda. However, a closer examination reveals that the core goals of the conflict are primarily secular, which for Russia and its proxies is keeping control over Ukraine and preventing the country from a drift toward the West and European institutions, while for Ukraine, it is securing its independence and right to choose its own geopolitical vector.


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