Russian religious leaders and movements to be sanctioned-Black List 1

Human Rights Without Frontiers recommends that the EU, the UK and the US put on their lists of sanctions a number of religious revisionist leaders and entities endorsing the rhetoric of President Vladimir Putin about the “non-war” and the “non-invasion” of Ukraine

By Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (05.03.2022) – Political instrumentalization of a wide range of religions and their leaders which had been dozing since the collapse of the Soviet Union is being woken up from its post-Communist lethargy and revitalized by the Cold War veteran Vladimir Putin.

Human Rights Without Frontiers is publishing a first list of religious leaders who under the guise of calling for peace should be added to the existing lists of sanctions for their collaboration with President Vladimir Putin in his disinformation campaign in Russia and outside. Believers of many faiths who are part of public opinion in Russia are being deceived by such shepherds.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia 

On 23 February, one day before the invasion of Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on Defender of the Fatherland Day and wished him peace of mind, health and God’s help in his ministry, according to the message published on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church:

“I cordially congratulate you on Defender of the Fatherland Day. <…> I wish you good health, peace of mind and abundant help from the Lord in your high and responsible service to the people of Russia.

On 27 February, Patriarch Kirill declared “about the events going on in Ukraine,” in his homily on Sunday 27 February, at the Cathedral Church of Christ the Saviour:

God forbid that the present political situation in fraternal Ukraine so close to us should be aimed at making the evil forces that have always strived against the unity of Rus’ and the Russian Church, gain the upper hand.

It must not be allowed to give the dark and hostile external forces an occasion to laugh at us; we should do everything to preserve peace between our peoples while protecting our common historical Motherland against every outside action that can destroy this unity.

“Wherefrom has the Russian land come, the land which now includes Russia and Ukraine and Belarus and other tribes and peoples. That the Lord may protect the Russian land against external enemies, against internal disorders, that the unity of our Church may strengthen and that by God’s mercy all the temptations, diabolical attacks, provocations may retreat and that our devout people in Ukraine may enjoy peace and tranquillity – these are our prayers today.

On 3 March, Patriarch Kirill published a new prayer for peace – for a “united” Holy Russia. Metropolitan Dionisy of Voskresensk, administrator of the Moscow Patriarchate, sent a circular letter to all the diocesan bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, with the text of a prayer.

The new prayer does not mention Ukraine at all, but speaks of the “Holy Russia”, originating from the one Baptismal Font [there are various Russian versions about it: the generally accepted one is in Kiev, the alternative – in Chersonesos (Crimea)]. According to the new prayer, the Holy Russia has been “attacked by foreign nations”, “desiring war”, and their designs must be destroyed.

For Patriarch Kirill, Ukraine has already disappeared from the European map and is now part of the territorially historical Holy Russia.

The Spiritual Council of the Russian United Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) (ROSHWE)

The ROSHWE called on its people to unite in prayer for peace in Ukraine, this being to be understood as Putin’s conception of “peace” as it is clearly explained hereafter:

“We pray that the world will recover as soon as possible, that order and tranquility reign in the near future, we pray for all world leaders, that the Lord will give them wisdom in the current situation, for the implementation of God’s will for Russia, Ukraine, all countries of Europe and the world,” the statement of the spiritual council at the disposal of RIA Novosti reads.

Russia began a military operation to demilitarize Ukraine early on Thursday morning, February 24. In a televised address to the Russians, President Vladimir Putin said that the circumstances ‘require decisive and immediate action from us, the people’s republics of Donbass asked for help.’”

According to the Russian leader, all responsibility for the bloodshed will be on the conscience of the ruling regime in Ukraine. He called on the Ukrainian military not to comply with the criminal orders of the Ukrainian authorities, lay down their weapons and go home. (…

Later, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stressed that the Russian Armed Forces do not strike any strikes on the cities of Ukraine: military infrastructure is disabled by high-precision means. According to the agency, the civilian population is not threatened. Later, the Ministry of Defense added that Ukrainian border guards do not resist, in some cases the Ukrainian military surrenders and after that have the opportunity to return to their families.

Berl Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar called on spiritual leaders to stand for peace in Ukraine

Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar called on religious leaders to stand together for “peace in Ukraine” and offered “any mediation,” saying:

“Russia began a military operation in Ukraine early on Thursday morning, February 24. President Vladimir Putin called it its goal ‘to protect people who have been bullied for eight years, genocide by the Kiev regime. To do this, according to him, it is planned to carry out demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine, to bring to justice all war criminals responsible for bloody crimes against civilians of Donbass.

According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Armed Forces strike only military infrastructure and Ukrainian troops, the civilian population is not in danger. With the support of the Russian Armed Forces, the offensive of the DPR and LPR groups are developing. But we are not talking about the occupation of Ukraine, the President of Russia emphasized. The Russian Defense Ministry reports a number of cases of voluntary addition of weapons by Ukrainian troops – they are guaranteed security and return to their families. Meanwhile, Ukrainian security forces place multiple launch systems directly in residential areas of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. Putin called it terrorist tactics.

Moreover, in an article published today 5 March, and titled “Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia President (FJCR): Outbreak of Russophobia in Europe over events in Ukraine unacceptable,” Alexander Boroda, its president, said that he is “outraged by manifestations of Russophobia in Europe amid the Russian military operation in Ukraine.” And he added “”I’d really like to believe that this is not true. Because it was precisely the Crystal Night, or the Night of Broken Glass, that preceded the long years of Nazi triumph,”

Leaders of the Muslim community of Russia

  • Talgat Tajuddin, the head of the Central Spiritual Muslim Board of Russia
  • Ismail Berdiyev, the head of the Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus
  • Albir Krganov, the head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia

On 2 March, the Russian Interfax agency published an article titled “Leading Russian muftis support military operation in Ukraine”:

“The leaders of the Muslim community of Russia came out in support of the special military operation of Russia in Ukraine and said they were praying for the understanding of the Ukrainian leadership.

“This is a justified, forced measure. When Nazism and fascism are reviving next to us, when the West is even trying to set its own brothers against each other, it is impossible to consider it normal. If there is a threat that missiles will be able to reach the capital of our Motherland in five to seven minutes, and even to Ufa, Kazan, and other Russian cities, who will tolerate this!” the head of the Central Spiritual Muslim Board of Russia Talgat Tajuddin told Interfax on Wednesday.

In his opinion, the current military operation in Ukraine is “actually a compulsion to peace.”

In turn, the head of the Coordination Center of Muslims of the North Caucasus, Ismail Berdiyev, told Interfaxthat war is always bad and that no normal person will be happy that there is a war. “But what is happening now in Ukraine is already a forced measure,” the mufti stressed.


According to the head of the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia Albir Krganov, Muslims have watched with pain what has been happening in recent years in “fraternal Ukraine”. “We empathize with the Ukrainian people and understand that now is a very difficult time for them,” he continued. “But we have not forgotten what atrocities were committed there by ultranationalists, who, for example, burned people alive.” 

“We would not like this to be transferred to our territory, but there were all the prerequisites for this, preparations were underway, and Ukraine was being prepared as a springboard for an attack on our country,” the mufti told Interfax. (…)

Damba Ayusheyev, the head of the Russian Buddhist Traditional Sangha,

On 3 March, the Russian Interfax agency published an article titled “The Russian Buddhists’ head supports the military operation in Ukraine:

”The head of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia, Damba Ayusheyev, addressed some words of support to the Russian soldiers who are participating in a special operation on the territory of Ukraine.

“I do not hope, but I know that our guys, brave and courageous, do not carry the glory of Genghis Khan for nothing. Almost every generation of us participates in the protection of the interests of our Fatherland in Afghanistan, Syria (…) We are worried about our brothers and sons who are now in difficult military conditions. We pray for their well-being and for their return to their families,” the head of the Buddhists of Russia told reporters.

He expressed sympathy to the parents whose children are now in Ukraine, and urged them to understand that “this is the only way we can protect our country, preserve and pass on our wealth to future generations.”

Ayusheyev recalled that Buddhists should maintain peace, maintain harmony and calm. “However, we live in a unified Russian state and protect the interests of our country, against which a dirty information war is being waged. We must have a strong and reliable rear (…) Buddha is with us!” he concluded.”


Western strategists are quite often not aware of the political instrumentalization of religions and their leaders. The Soviet Union and its satellites had been real masters in this sort of mental manipulation and infeudation of the minds and the souls, creating movements such as the “priests for peace,” during the Cold War, which were parroting the Communist propaganda to morally disarm the West.

This battlefield should not be underestimated and neglected.

Photo: Patriarch Kirill of Moscow –

Further reading about FORB in Russia on HRWF website