Pray Against Foreign Invasion or Pray for Peace? Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and the Russian-Ukrainian War

Andriy Fert is a PhD candidate at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (Ukraine).

As tensions on the Russian-Ukrainian border grew, the difference between the two main Orthodox churches in Ukraine became clearer. While the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) spoke straightforwardly about the prospect of the Russian invasion and urged believers to protect their Homeland, the leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) remained silent up until recently. Several UOC-MP public figures and media outlets repeatedly dismissed the prospect of invasion as “hysteria” and accused the OCU of spreading panic in the interest of the West.

Prayers for the Ukrainian Army

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU)—a relatively new religious entity that came into being in late 2018—was among the first religious institutions to call on believers to pray for victory and the Ukrainian army. As early as December 2021, the OCU’s Zakarpatya Diocese, located near Hungary, proclaimed 2022 “a year of intense prayer for the Ukrainian army” in light of the Russian military build-up on the border.


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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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