The Past and Future Friendship of the Ukrainian and Russian Peoples

Thoughts regarding a Ukrainian attack on the concept of a Russian World


L a d u s h k i n -- An interconfessional declaration attacking the concept of a Russian World (see text below) was published in Kiev on 10 January 2024. It was distributed further by the “European Evangelical Alliance”.


The piece opens with the highly subjective term of “aggression”. Yet the Russian side cites NATO enlargement and a hoped-for break-up of Russia - or Balkanization - as proof of aggressive Western intent. The Maidan putsch of February 2014 destroyed the tricky balance between pro-Russian and pro-Western forces which had kept Ukraine in one piece since its founding in December 1991. The Minsk II co-signers Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and Petro Poroshenko have all conceded that these agreements from February 2015 had been used as a ploy to gain valuable time for rearming the country. The UK’s Boris Johnson was highly-responsible for scuttling the promising Istanbul agreements of March 2022. The West’s refusal to enter negotiations – both before and after February 2022 – can certainly also be interpreted as aggression. It was assumed that Russia must live without the security arrangements the USA demands for itself (Monroe Doctrine, fo ex.).


The term “Russian World” asserts commonality between the Eastern Slavic, Orthodox peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. This view that peoples demonstrate similarities, that nations can be grouped, is not inherently aggressive. Yet it can be used in an aggressive fashion by nationalist circles. Despite highly-different dialects, Saxons, Bavarians, Swabians and Friesens are nevertheless all classified as Germans. Why not view the Russian World in the same light?


I tend to support the view that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians form a single nation, often called “Rus”. Nearly all citizens of these three countries share a mutual first or second mother tongue. One could in the same sense argue that US-Americans and English-speaking Canadians form a common Anglo-Saxon nation.


More than a few evangelicals in Ukraine and Belarus are up in the front lines when it comes to pushing ethnic separatism, emphasizing that their nation is not a part of the Russian one. Swallowing or assimilating another people can be interpreted as an unfriendly act. Russia could be accused of that, yet millions of Russia’s inhabitants still claim to be Ukrainians. Is Russia attempting to swallow Ukraine, or is Rus simply attempting to swallow Rus? When is a war a civil war, and when is it not? You choose. Certainly, in terms of international law, the Russian invasion of 2022 was illegal.


Generally, Russians do not preach hatred of the Ukrainian nation. Russians continue to stress their friendship and fraternal ties with the peoples of Ukraine. As recently noted by the USA’s Tucker Carlson, Moscow’s impressive “Kievskaya” subway station, completed in 1954, continues to celebrate the brother- and sisterhood of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples. I am not aware of similar government positions in today’s Ukraine.


Russian evangelicals are hesitant to criticize a pro-Ukrainian dissident such as the erstwhile Baptist leader Yuri Sipko, who fled from Moscow to Germany in August 2023. Russian evangelical leaders rarely publicly criticize their spiritually- and blood-related brothers and sisters in Ukraine. They understand the need for reconciliation following the current conflict and do not intend to recklessly undermine the prospects of that future task.


I am very reluctant to accuse an adversary of mental instability. Accusations of insanity (“craziness”) have become highly inflationary and serve as an effective negotiations killer. Here’s a modest example from John Varoli, a one-time journalist for the “New York Times”. Following a visit to Kiev in April 2019, he concluded that he had for the first time “encountered suicidal nationalism”. (“Substack”, 17 July 2023.) One Ukrainian quote he cited: “We will fight the Russians even if it means that all of Ukraine will burn”. His conclusion: “Something dark and evil resides in the soul of Ukraine’s intellectual and political elite. Nationalists in Lvov and Kiev . . . are ready to accept their country’s destruction and see their people slaughtered just to insist on their ‘right’ to join NATO.”


Varoli writes in closing: “Most independent geopolitical experts know that this war between Russia and Ukraine was easily avoidable. . . . The solution (political neutrality, etc.) really is simple. Except it isn’t, because self-destructive Ukrainian nationalism and American imperial ambitions have found common cause.” One of course cannot accept this conclusion if one sees no American “imperial ambitions”. Around 15 years ago, my wife and I first heard Ukrainian evangelicals insisting that they would be fighting “to the very end”.


On 13 June 2023, I was sent a recorded excerpt from the All-Ukrainian prayer gathering in Kiev apparently three days previous. In his prayer at that event, Pentecostal bishop Andrey Tishenko beseeched God (under applause) to supply Ukrainian forces with F-16 jets and long-range missiles. At a Warsaw church gathering on 7 October 2023, another Ukrainian Pentecostal bishop, Mykhailo Panochko, ascertained that Vladimir Putin was Satan and that his adherents were demons worthy of death.


Undoubtedly, the treatment of evangelicals in Russian-held Donbass has been problematic. It is closely related to the highly-strident positions taken by evangelical leaders in Kiev, expecting their colleagues in Donbass to pay as little heed as possible to the new, pro-Russian authorities. (That position is not supported by Romans 13.). Actions are followed by reactions, which is hardly surprising.


The future

In closing, this declaration from 10 January calls for a Ukrainian military victory, not for negotiations. With very few exceptions, Russian evangelicals on the other hand do not pray for military victory, they pray for the victory of peace.


The West is not winning the war on the Ukrainian battlefield – nor in international trade. The US has nevertheless won major political victories by destroying the ties between Germany and Russia, uniting Western Europe behind it and bringing Finland and Sweden into the NATO fold. Why not celebrate this significant victory for the sake of the voters back home in the USA and Western Europe, and then pull back?


We must not despair, even when cowering in the shadow of a nuclear cloud. I have had up-lifting conversations with Ukrainian refugees in Germany and Poland and very much want to believe that post-war reconciliation will be possible. We will need to co-exist when the present crises is over. All hands will be needed.


Moscow’s Pentecostal bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky, the primary or sole Russian Protestant leader officially sanctioned by Ukraine, wrote in August 2022: “I believe . . . the realization will return that Russians and Ukrainians form a common whole, and that we need each other. The many wounds, which this war has caused, will be healed and these fraternal peoples will again co-exist in peace and harmony.” Anonymous criticism in this Ukrainian declaration is directed at the “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” (ROSKhVE) headed by Ryakhovsky.


Reconciliation is the primary issue, not accusations citing the other side’s guilt. Let’s get the process up-and-running by citing Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”.


William Yoder, Ph.D.

Ladushkin, Kaliningrad region, 28 February 2024


A journalistic release for which only the author is 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 #24-02, 1.157 words.






The war of aggression launched by Russia in 2014 against Ukraine, and continued with a full-scale invasion in 2022, has brought much suffering to Ukrainian soil and hundreds of thousands of deaths, including the murdering of more than 520 children and the destruction of cities and civilian infrastructure. It has caused the largest migration crisis since World War II and brought the entire region to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.


It is well known that the ideological basis of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, Russian war crimes, and the genocide of the Ukrainian people is the chauvinistic doctrine of the "Russian world" which is implemented, in practice, in the form of a dictatorship. By analogy with fascism, this can be called "russiasm." This doctrine, in fact an ideology, denies the right of the Ukrainian nation to self-determination, sovereign development (having its own state, language, history, cultural identity, freedom of religion), and ultimately, the right to exist. The Russian dictator, representatives of the Russian authorities, the Moscow Patriarchate and other religious structures closely associated with the authorities, and propaganda media have been claiming for years that Ukrainians, as a people, "do not exist" and that the Ukrainian nation was "artificially created." Other similar narratives have been spread, as well.


It should be noted that Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev and the Russian Orthodox Church have been, and remain, one of the main creators and propagandists of the "Russian World" ideology, which assumes the exclusivity of Russian civilization and its separation from, and hostile opposition to, others. However, such a position, which excludes or singles out others on the basis of ethnicity or culture, does not correspond to the foundations of the Orthodox faith and Christianity, as such. Inciting hatred and waging war based on the ideology of the "Russian world" violate Christian principles and contradict the spiritual norms that the Church is supposed to embody. This ideology today is a challenge to the preaching of the Gospel in the modern world and destroys the credibility of the Christian testimony regardless of denominations.


Hiding behind the slogans of "protecting the Russian language," "denazification," and "desatanization" of Ukraine, the Russian military and occupation authorities are implementing the ideology of the "Russian world" in the temporarily-occupied territories of Ukraine—killing residents who hold pro-Ukrainian views, exterminating intellectuals, and committing mass crimes against the civilian population. Russian missiles, drones, and artillery kill Ukrainians every day and destroy historical and cultural monuments, especially those associated with Ukrainian identity and spiritual heritage. The invaders are looting and destroying Ukrainian museums, archives, theaters, libraries, churches and houses of worship, implementing the ideology of the "Russian world" in religious, cultural, educational, political, and other spheres.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a threat to Christian traditions of all kinds, as well as to other religious traditions (Judaism, Islam, etc.). Emphasizing the "fraternal origin of Ukrainians and Russians who make up the Holy Rus," blaming the "evil West" for the military actions, and directing religious communities to pray for the victory of Russian aggressors and invaders, the top leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and a number of Russian Protestant unions demonstrate not a desire for Christian unity and peace but actually approve and encourage hostility and hatred toward the Ukrainian people and the entire free world.


We, the heads of Ukrainian Christian Churches:

- strongly condemn the ideology of the "Russian world" and the position of Moscow Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev and the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as other Russian religious associations and leaders who support Russia's aggression against Ukraine, justify the war of aggression, promote hatred of the Ukrainian people, and incite inter-ethnic and interfaith hatred


- express support for the position of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations in their appeal to the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and other international interfaith institutions to consider bringing  moral and other responsibility to the Russian Orthodox Church and other Russian religious unions that strongly support the Russian aggression against Ukraine, incite inter-ethnic and interfaith hatred and, through the preaching of the Russian World ideology, encourage the genocide of the Ukrainian people


- express our gratitude to the states and peoples who support Ukraine in its struggle for independence from Russian imperialism, to the churches and faithful in different parts of the world who help Ukrainian nation in every possible way and offer their prayers for the establishment of a just peace in Ukraine, to international humanitarian organizations who provide assistance to the needy in Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, theologians of various churches who condemn the doctrine (ideology) of the "Russian world," and academic circles of various countries who define the scientific concept of "racism" and its ideological foundations.


We pray for the Ukrainian people, for victory, for the establishment of a just peace, for God's protection of our land, and the preservation of Ukraine's independence and freedom!


January 10, 2024  Kyiv


1. Epiphaniy (Dumenko), Primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine

2. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Galych

3. Vitalii Kryvytskyi, Bishop, Ordinary of Kyiv-Zhytomyr Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine

4. Anatoliy Kozachok, Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Pentecostal Church

5. Valerii Antoniuk, Head of the All-Ukrainian Union of the Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists

6. Stanislav Nosov, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ukraine

7. Leonid Padun, Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church

8. Vyacheslav Horpynchuk, Bishop of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church

9. Oleksandr Zaitsev, Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church

10. Marcos Hovhannisyan,  Bishop of the Ukrainian Diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church

11. Sergiy Shaptala, President of Brotherhood of Independent Baptist Churches and Ministries of Ukraine.