Who Can Help in Donbass?

Aid for the most needy in Russian-held regions


L a d u s h k i n -- More than a few sources quietly confirm that Ukrainian Protestants loyal to Kiev do not approve of humanitarian aid in Russian-held zones. In hopes of keeping conflicts to a minimum, Russian Protestants have consequently remained very tight-lipped regarding the aid they supply to Donbass. Nevertheless, Franklin Graham’s “Samaritan’s Purse” has since the onset of hostilities in 2014 aided Ukrainian refugees fleeing eastward into Russia. Since Maidan, at least 3,5 million persons have chosen to escape in that direction. For years, Pastor Vladimir Drog, who resides in Rostov region, has headed the distribution of Baptist aid to refugees and those remaining in the war zone.


The “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” (ROSKhVE) led by Sergey Ryakhovsky is somewhat of a PR-exception, recently featuring its involvement in the rebuilding of Mariupol. The industrial port city of Mariupol, which had 425.000 residents in early 2022, has become a second Grosny in the eyes of the Russian government. Liberated – or “conquered” – by Russian and Donbass forces in May 2022, Russian state cash and labour are busily removing the many scars of war. As the author was able to verify first-hand in November 2020, Grosny has been cleared of all visible reminders of the two Chechen wars in the 1990’s (see “www.wyoder.de/2020/12/05/baptists-in-grosny-chechnya“).


In August 2022, Vitaly and Olga Mosur founded a new ROSKhVE-congregation in Mariupol called “Heart of David”. The couple, which hails from distant Karachayevsk near the border with Georgia, had begun three months previous with humanitarian programmes in the city.


Forms of Protestant aid in Donbass have including entertainment programmes for children, help for hospitals, the elderly and single mothers while providing electricity and water. Included is a lorry offering showers in areas of water scarcity. The repair of church buildings is another priority.


The Mosurs could be regarded as successors to the Pentecostal heavyweight Gennady Mokhnenko, who was forced to vacate the city in May 2022. Mokhnenko remains active to this day, supplying both humanitarian and military aid to the Donbass regions still held by Kiev. This Ukrainian nationalist has long been known for “Republic Piligrim“ and its work among orphans. He and his wife currently have roughly 40 children, only three of which are their biological offspring. At least two of their children have already fallen as soldiers, another 11-or-so are currently fighting on the front. Some of the younger ones are living in Germany. Pastor Mokhnenko prefers to keep things simple: On his English-language Facebook page he describes the current conflict as a struggle between light and darkness while calling the land in which I reside a “Russian hell”. (For background see: “www.wyoder.de/2017/10/01/the-political-position-of-ukraine-s-protestants”.)


In his Berlin lecture on 9 December 2023, the German-Russian theologian Johannes Reimer had insisted that Russian Protestants do humanitarian work in Russian-held regions “out of love for the Ukrainians” (see “www.wyoder.de/2023/12/16/reimer-ukraine-needs-a-ceasefire”).


Needy times caused by war tend to bring Christian confessions on the same side of the front closer to one another. The Ukrainian one is no exception. A humanitarian shipment from Russian Tatarstan in January 2023 valued at 15.000 Euros included contributions from Orthodox, Pentecostal, Baptist, Evangelical-Christian and Adventist circles.


What all of these Russian aid agencies have in common is a need for additional volunteers. In November 2022, Alexander Babich from the Pentecostal “Bright Path” agency complained about the lack of available hands on location in war-stricken areas.


The Moscow Patriarchy has launched an appeal for volunteers below the age of 70 to come to Mariupol and help restore private quarters among those physically incapable of doing their own work. Aid delivery drivers with their own vehicles are also in high demand. This Orthodox programme covers housing and food, a commitment of at least a week is expected.


Are there expat Russians and others residing in the West willing to heed the call from Acts 16:9 to “come over to Macedonia and help us”? The phone number of this Orthodox project is: +7 800 70 70 222. Persons unable to reach this number are welcome to drop the author a line. One of his email-addresses is at the very bottom on the first page of his website.


William Yoder, Ph.D.

Ladushkin, Kaliningrad region, 01 March 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 #24-03, 686 words.