Gennady Mokhnenko, Crimea and Motorola

Gennady Mokhnenko and the Need for Arms


The heads of leading Ukrainian congregations frequently visit the USA in hopes of locating additional sources of finance. Gennady Mokhnenko, a prominent Pentecostal-Charismatic pastor from the front lines at Mariupol, is no exception. He is a leader in the “Ukraine without Orphans” movement.


While touring Texas, he expressed admiration on his Facebook page on 26 October for the fact that even in church most men are armed. In jest, he had started a survey in a congregation to ascertain how many of its men carried weapons. In response, the pastor pulled a pistol from his pocket (photo included). “A greeting to all pacifists and Tolstoyans from Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin)!” exclaimed Mokhnenko on Facebook. He concluded: “The pastors of Texas with their brains bereft of any form of Soviet communism have no clue as to why we quarrel about the right of Christians to defend themselves.”


The response in the Russian-speaking world was not strictly positive. But one woman from Kiev assured: “I find nothing wrong if a person comes to a church service armed.” The disarming (?) comment of a couple from Texas helped cool the Facebook debate: “For us, this is not a deep theological question - we just like having guns.”


The German political humorist Volker Pispers announced some months ago that the US was suffering 80 homicides a day. “In Iraq, we call that a civil war,” he added. 


In March 2015, Mokhnenko had expressed on Ukrainian TV his willingness to personally kill Vladimir Putin if given a suitable opportunity. (See our release from 2 July 2015.)


The Shoving Match on Crimea


Russians report that the Protestant congregations in Crimea are under considerable strain. Their former church heads in Kiev insist they retain their long-term institutional ties to the Ukrainian capital. That’s becoming increasingly difficult, for Crimea was proclaimed a part of the Russian Federation in March 2014. This also causes tensions in the congregations between pro-Kiev and pro-Moscow factions. The fact that thousands of visa-free vacationers from Greater Ukraine spent time in Crimea during the summer of 2016 surely did not decrease the unrest in Protestant congregations.


I am not aware of cases in which Russian church offices have pressured these congregations to re-orient themselves towards Moscow. But the Muscovites also have not kept them from doing so, which leads to tensions between Moscow and Kiev offices.


Caution, commentary: It’s difficult for me to find something negative in the recognition of clear political realities. And these are realities for which the Protestant congregations in Crimea are neither responsible nor capable of changing.


In 1969, 24 years after the end of the war, a separate and independent evangelical church was finally created in the German Democratic Republic. Until then, West German circles had insisted on a single “Evangelical Church in Germany” in divided Germany. Afterwards, little was apparent which could be described as negative. The move led instead to a significant reduction of tensions on the political and interpersonal level. The issue was soon forgotten after German reunification in 1990. A conclusion: The institutional division of a church did not impair the feeling of unity among Germans.


I do not mean to imply that Crimea will be rejoining Ukraine any time soon. I instead desire to express the view that the recognition of political realities can lead to a noticeable reduction of tensions between states and their citizens.


Motorola Killed


We published the news on 31 January 2015 that perhaps all of the (West) Ukrainian soldiers who had fallen at Donetsk airport carried solar-driven players with spiritual messages from Charles Stanley, a Baptist pastor in Atlanta/Georgia.


The informant was a person without any expertise on church affairs: Arsen (or Arseny) Pavlov, also known as “Motorola”. Pavlov, a Russian citizen, was probably the best-known militia leader on the eastern, Donetsk side. On 16 October, the controversial lieutenant colonel was killed in the elevator of his Donetsk apartment house by a remotely-controlled bomb. He leaves behind a wife and three children.


William Yoder, Ph.D.
Smolensk, 04 November 2016


A journalistic release for which the author is solely responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #16-13b, 662 words.