On March 12, the leader of the Russian Evangelical Alliance Vitaly Vlasenko apologized to Ukraine for his government’s actions, and asked for forgiveness and solidarity in the road ahead.
“I mourn what my country has done in its recent military invasion of another sovereign country, Ukraine,” Vlasenko wrote in an open letter. “In the worst-case scenario, I could not imagine what is now being observed.”
Such a statement is not without risk for Vlasenko, as Russia has banned spreading “fake news” — any information that goes against the government’s own narrative. Officially, Russia’s army is conducting a “special military operation” and Vlasenko notably avoided the phrase, referring to it instead as a “invasion” and a “conflict.” He also referred to Ukrainian fears of “demilitarization” and “occupation.” Such terminology could get him in trouble with 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 bring a halt to the invasion, writing that “Everything I could do to prevent war, I did. I apologize to all those who have suffered.” That appears to be the case, as Vlasenko spent the days leading up to Russia’s invasion at the border amplifying Ukrainian calls for peace and meeting with religious leaders from Ukraine and other European nations, calling for prayer and fasting.
Vlasenko joins a growing movement of Russian citizens protesting their military’s actions and disputing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s notion of Ukrainian liberation. Images of Russian police’s crackdown on protests have flooded social media. Earlier this week, a Russia state TV employee crashed the local broadcast with a sign that read ““NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.” Her lawyers say she has since gone missing.
“Two peoples closely related to each other, many of whom are deeply devoted to the Christian (primarily Orthodox) faith, are now in a fierce battle,” Vlasenko wrote. “Peaceful feelings are being destroyed amidst the bombing and shelling.”
March 12, 2022
To my dear brothers and sisters around the world:
As the General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, I mourn what my country has done in its recent military invasion of another sovereign country, Ukraine.
For me, as for many other Christians, the military invasion was a shock. In the worst-case scenario, I could not imagine what is now being observed in Ukraine. Two peoples closely related to each other, many of whom are deeply devoted to the Christian (primarily Orthodox) faith, are now in a fierce battle—one side pursuing the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine, the other seeking to save their country from occupation.
Many Russians and Ukrainians have close family relations in the opposite country. A Russian may have daughters and grandchildren living in Kyiv; a Ukrainian may 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 the Second World War no one knows what the limits of war and its consequences may be.
Today, soldiers from one side and the other are dying. Peaceful feelings are being destroyed amidst the bombing and shelling, and a stream of increased attention has rushed across Europe in the form of refugees: women, the elderly, and children.
All these events cause me deep sorrow, bitterness, and regret for decisions taken by the leadership of my country, and a great compassion for those suffering as a result of this decision.
Everything I could do to prevent war, I did in an attempt 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 the day before the invasion, in which I supported the request of the religious leaders of Ukraine for a peaceful solution to all conflict.
• 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 assistance to more than 500 refugees from Ukraine stationed in southern Russia.
• We initiated a roundtable and subsequent international conference on the topic of military and political conflicts.
Today, as a citizen and as General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, I apologize to all those who have suffered, lost loved ones and relatives, or lost their place of residence as a result of this military conflict. My prayer is that you will find strength from the Lord to extend your hand of solidarity and forgiveness, so we can live as the people of God to our world.
May our heavenly Father help us all.
With deep respect, your brother in the Lord,