LVIV, Ukraine — The obvious signs of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities led members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religions to call Russia a “terrorist state” and to plea once more to NATO countries to provide Ukraine with the weapons necessary defend Ukraine and defeat Russia.
“We pray for the complete victory of Ukraine over this evil, for the defeat of the Russian occupying forces, for the downfall of the people-hating regime in Russia (and) for the enlightenment and repentance of the Russian people, who have been victimized by Russian propaganda,” said a statement adopted by the council April 6.
“Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent Ukrainians were tortured and killed in the weeks of Russian occupation,” they said.
The victims include people, with their hands bound, shot in the head, as well as women and girls who appear to have been raped before being killed. The European Union has promised to assist Ukraine in conducting an investigation for war crimes, while Russia continues to claim that the dead were killed by Ukrainian forces after the Russians had left.
The joint statement followed the declarations of individual Catholic and Orthodox leaders April 5 after videos and photographs of the scenes in Bucha were widely circulated and, in several cases, verified by professional journalists.
“The whole world was horrified to see what was happening in Bucha,” said Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, the Latin-rite archbishop of Lviv. He called “on everyone to pray for those who gave their lives, for all those who suffered, for peace, for the motherland. I think that God will give us the long-awaited peace, and the sacrifice will not be in vain.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine “has a clear ideological basis — this has been said in recent days at the highest levels of the Russian government. This war is a denial of the existence of a multimillion-strong Ukrainian people,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Saying what the Russians did in Bucha and allegedly are doing elsewhere “perhaps is worse than Nazism,” Shevchuk called for the establishment of an international war crimes tribunal to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv, head of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, condemned not only the atrocities but also the “Russian World” teaching espoused by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and President Vladimir Putin, which sees an expanded role for Russia in the region, even at the cost of subjugating Ukraine.
“The ideology of the ‘Russian world,’ as we can see, justifies murder, violence (and) war, and therefore this ideology of the ‘Russian World,’ along with the ideology of Nazism, should be rejected and condemned,” the metropolitan said.
Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church tied to the Moscow Patriarchate, told the news site Glavkom that “grief filled my heart” when he read about what happened in Bucha.
Murderers and rapists will face “the judgment of God, from which no one can hide,” he said, without mentioning Russia or its troops.