Oleg Goncharov: the state is not pressuring the religions of the Russian Federation, they themselves collected a billion rubles in total for the victims of war (Credit: IRP)

RUSSIA: Churches collect 1 billion rubles (10 million EUR) for ‘people in need’ in occupied territories

The collaboration between religious groups and their own state in the invasion of a neighbouring country raises moral and theological questions

Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (21.03.2023) – On 28 February 2023, a webinar titled “Religious Factor in Modern Political and Economic Life of Europe” was held by the Institute of Scientific Information for Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of SciencesINION RAN , and the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

According to Roman Lunkin, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, religious organizations of the Russian Federation freely decided to collect funds “to help those in need during the Special Military Operation in Ukraine,” provide social and humanitarian assistance.

Social and humanitarian assistance in Russian-occupied territories

In an article published on 1 March 2023 by the Institute of Religion and Policy, and titled “Religions in the Russian Federation have raised a billion dollars for war victims,” Pastor Oleg Goncharov (Seventh-Day Adventist Church), Secretary General of the Russian Association for Religious Freedom and member of the Presidential Council, was quoted as saying:

“Basically, all associations focused on social assistance to those in need. Although there have been and are political statements from church leaders, everyone is united in the organization of humanitarian projects.”

“While most of the donations and other assistance are collected by the Russian Orthodox Church, Evangelical Protestant Churches have also made a significant contribution. Protestants have begun to regularly support residents of Mariupol since April 2022, various churches have had projects in Donbass since 2014. At Christmas, clothes and gifts were distributed in Lugansk.

As Goncharov noted, he was impressed by the trip to Lugansk in December 2022, where Orthodox, Muslims, Protestants, Jews distributed food to children and the elderly together.

According to Goncharov, “The churches are working with the Ministry of Defense on this occasion.”


  • Who were the providers of one billion rubles?
  • How were they collected?
  • Should religious communities collaborate with the Ministry of Defence of their aggressor country?
  • Isn’t this some form of complicity and support to the invasion of a sovereign country?


The “New Russian Territories” of the Russian Federation and Russian religions

Under cover of interreligious dialogue, the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill who fully support Putin’s war on Ukraine are now involving other Russian churches and religious groups in the “New Territories” ideology and the colonization thereof.

This is obvious in the article “New Territories of the Russian Federation were discussed by the bodies under the President of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.” published on 1 March 2023 by the Institute of Religion and Policy:

“The meeting, which was chaired by DECR Chairman, Head of the Commission on International Cooperation, Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, was attended by:

Deputy Head of the Office of the President of the Russian Federation for Internal Policy Anatoly Vylegzhanin;

Head of the Department for Interaction with Religious Organizations of the Office of the President of the Russian Federation for Internal Policy Yevgeny Eremin;

Advisor to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Archpriest Nikolai Balashov;

Representative of the Russian and New Nakhichevan Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Priest Gevorg Vardanyan;

Chief Bishop of the Russian United Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) Sergei Ryakhovsky;

Deputy Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Russian Federation for International Affairs Rushan Abbyasov;

Deputy Archbishop of Shafig Pshikhachev;

Did Hambo Lama Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia Dashi-Nima Sodnomdorzhiev;

First Deputy Chairman of the Euro-Asian Division of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Christian Church Oleg Goncharov, as well as other members of the Commission and invited officials.

“New Territories”

Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov), Secretary of the Department of the Inter-Christian Relations, told the experience of religious organizations of the Russian Federation in providing humanitarian assistance to residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk Republics, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions.

According to Rushan Abbyasov, he conveyed to the audience the words of greetings on behalf of the Chairman of the SAM of the Russian Federation and JIM Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin.

In the context of discussing the first topic of the meeting related to the provision of humanitarian assistance to residents of the “new territories” of Russia, Rushan Abyasov said that with the blessing of Mufti Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, the organizations he heads are doing a lot of work in this direction, as well as supporting our fighters on the front line and visit the wounded in hospitals.”

Interreligious dialogue

Archpriest Sergei Zvonarev, Secretary of the SPRC for Far Abroad, Executive Secretary of the Commission on International Cooperation, made a presentation on the prospects for the participation of traditional religious organizations of the Russian Federation in global interreligious meetings.

When discussing issues of international cooperation, he noted the importance of public diplomacy, Roushan Abbyasov spoke about the contribution of the SAM of the Russian Federation and the JIM to the development of Russia’s relations with the Islamic world, through the signing of Memoranda of Understanding, the implementation of joint humanitarian, cultural, religious and spiritual and educational projects.

Concluding the meeting, Metropolitan Anthony wished all those present blessed success in their future work.”


  • How can Russian Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and others accept in their soul and conscience to endorse Russia’s aggression of Ukraine, Russia’s invasion and colonization of Ukrainian territories.
  • How can they accept to work in the so-called ‘New Territories’ with the blessing of the ROC and the Kremlin?
  • How long can Adventist, Evangelical, Muslim, Buddhist… organizations in Europe and America tolerate the justification of the war and occupation by their brothers and sisters in Russia.

In the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, at a joint meeting on February 27, 2023, the bodies of the Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations under the President of the Russian Federation – the Commission on International Cooperation and the Interreligious Working Group for the Protection of Believers from Discrimination and Xenophobia discussed Russian “new territories” and work there, as reported by the DECR.

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website