CHURCH leaders in Ukraine have expressed doubts about peace talks with Russia, after a fresh wave of missile strikes this week. On Tuesday, in an incident now believed to have been caused by Ukrainian air defences, two people were killed in neighbouring Poland.
“Our continuing struggle will certainly be crowned with success with God’s help — we are fighting for our homeland’s liberation, our own existence, and our children’s future,” the Primate of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), said on Tuesday.
“While everyone must do everything in their power to win, it should also be clearly understood that this struggle isn’t just physical, but also spiritual. It cannot be that the body of our state is Ukrainian, while its spirit is Russian.”
The Metropolitan made the comments while presenting explosive detectors to Kyiv’s military command for use in Ukraine, currently rated by the United Nations as the world’s most heavily mined country.
The Franciscan RC Bishop of Odesa, the Rt Revd Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk, said that he also doubted the possibility of negotiations with Moscow, amid reports that Russian occupation forces had committed atrocities and systematically destroyed critical infrastructure before abandoning the regional capital of Kherson last week.
“Although pressure is being exerted on us to negotiate and cede territory, our government and armed services will not agree to this; we’ve already suffered too much, while everyone knows any concessions will merely fuel further demands,” Bishop Shyrokoradiuk said.
“Our army believes it is in combat with terrorists, who shell and bomb civilians, beating and killing people in their homes. In such conditions, when everything has been profaned and ruined and all agreements ignored, how can we respect or believe anything Russia says? Our only option is to deal with these people once for all, and stop them spreading terror among innocent people.”
President Zelensky presented a ten-step Ukrainian peace plan to G20 leaders at their Bali summit on Tuesday, which would include prisoner exchanges and a complete Russian withdrawal.
Up to 100 missiles struck key energy targets in Ukraine the same day, however, leaving seven million civilians without electricity.
In a video message on Tuesday, President Putin said that his country had now “put a firm stop” to “attempts by certain nations to loosen its sovereignty and statehood”, and that “high moral and spiritual guidelines” remained “fundamental to the Russian national identity”.
In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said that the latest missile onslaught indicated “what Russia has to say on the issue of peace talks”, and urged an end to calls for his country to “accept Russian ultimatums”.
Addressing a congregation on Sunday in Kyiv, the Primate of the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Onufriy (Berezovsky), said he hoped that God would “rid Ukraine of its enemies”, while making its government wise and “strengthening its soldiers with courage”.
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, requested international help in repatriating at least 11,000 Ukrainian children deported to Russia, and warned that Ukrainians would “not succumb to doubt, but keep fighting and hoping for their future”.
He told ambassadors at the Vatican on Tuesday: “For any just peace, the truth about everything Russia has done in Ukraine must be established, along with justice and, most importantly, repentance for crimes committed. That will certainly not be easy.
“The ideology of a ‘Russian space’ can be compared by the doctrine of ISIS. That this doctrine is preached by the Russian Church’s highest representatives discredits the Church’s evangelical mission and endangers all of Christianity”.
Churches in Ukraine staged a Day of Prayer for Orphans on Sunday, as aid organisations warned that the destruction of power and water supplies could drive a new flood of refugees westwards before Christmas.