Russian religious persecutions in Ukraine likely part of ongoing cultural genocide, says ISW
Russian troops destroyed the Church in the village of Bohorodychne, Kramatorsk District, Donetsk Oblast (Photo:Volodymyr Kutsenko / oikoumene.org)
Russia is conducting a campaign of systematic religious persecutions in occupied Ukraine, which are likely part of its ongoing cultural genocide, the U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its Ukraine report for April 9.
According to the ISW, Russia continues to weaponize religion in an effort to discredit Ukraine internationally. It is using information warfare in relation to religion to advance military objectives despite itself grossly violating respective freedoms in occupied Ukraine.
In addition, Russia may use the upcoming Orthodox Easter holiday on April 16 in an effort to delay Ukrainian counteroffensives by calling for a ceasefire out of respect for Orthodoxy, despite the fact that Russia has shown no such respect for religious belief in areas its forces occupy.
In this case, Moscow will pursue several goals, according to the think tank:
- Such a pause would disproportionately benefit Russian troops and allow them to secure their gains in urban Bakhmut and to prepare defenses against Ukraine’s spring 2023 counteroffensive.
- Putin may call for a ceasefire to frame Ukraine as unaccommodating and unwilling to take the necessary steps towards negotiations.
- A ceasefire on religious grounds additionally reinforces the two-fold Russian information operation that frames Ukraine as suppressing religious groups and positions Putin as the true protector of the Christian faith.
“Russian religious persecutions are likely also part of an ongoing Russian cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at extirpating the idea of an independent Ukrainian nationality or Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” the ISW concluded.
However, as noted by ISW, no combatant is obligated to accept a cease-fire on religious or any other grounds.
“Should Russia offer and Ukraine refuse a ceasefire over Orthodox Easter the Kremlin will not thereby have demonstrated any greater devotion to the defense of Christianity or Christian values nor shown that Kyiv rejects those values,” reads the report.
In general, Russia’s systematic religious persecution supports a larger Russian campaign of cultural genocide against Ukraine. The ISW has previously assessed that Russia is conducting mass deportations of Ukrainian children and depopulating Ukrainian territory in what likely amounts to a deliberate ethnic cleansing campaign. Russian deliberate attacks and vandalism against places of worship in occupied Ukraine may also constitute war crimes, the ISW noted.
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