On March 17, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes, including his involvement in the abduction of children. Previously, a United Nations inquiry found evidence that Russia has committed a wide range of war crimes, including the deportation of children and “systemic and widespread” use of torture. All wars involve casualties, but no wars should involve crimes.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has led to tens of thousands of deaths and injuries as well as the displacement of at least 14 million people. In addition, the Russian military has created untold suffering, specifically among Christians and religious minorities in Ukraine, going out of its way to systematically target Christians and destroy houses of worship. Putin and Russia must be held accountable for their crimes — especially those perpetrated on the basis of religion.

Human rights experts say Russian soldiers have targeted pastors and churches when invading regions in eastern Ukraine. The Russian military has disproportionately sought out evangelical Christians, destroying, damaging and looting nearly 500 religious buildings and sacred sites. The Institute of Religious Freedom (IRF) has documented numerous cases where Russia has seized religious buildings and used them as military outposts to conceal firing positions.

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As if those atrocities weren’t enough, Russia has murdered at least 26 religious leaders and tortured and imprisoned many others. Russian soldiers have labeled Ukrainian Christians as “American spies” and “enemies of the Russian Orthodox people.”

In just a five-month period in 2022, the IRF recorded 20 cases of illegal imprisonment of Ukrainian religious leaders, accompanied by attempted rape, mock executions, deprivation of food and water and threats of violence against family members. Last year, Russia jailed four church members for illegal meetings and raids were conducted among a series of Pentecostal churches.


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All of this is lamentable, but it’s also ironic. While Russia lauds itself as “pro-Christian,” its behavior belies its claim at propaganda.

Most Christians in Russia belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, which views the breakaway Orthodox Church of Ukraine as illegitimate and its members as apostates. This errant classification helps lay the foundation for the pretext to mistreat, abuse and persecute evangelicals and other non-Russian Orthodox believers in Ukraine.

If history is education, then the Russian Orthodox Church should know better than to stay silent. During the Cold War, the Soviets attempted to crack down on religious organizations and the Orthodox church bore the brunt of the persecution. Its property was nationalized and many of its schools were shut down. More than 50,000 bishops, priests and other clergy members were slaughtered or imprisoned. So how can Russian Orthodox leaders and members turn a blind eye when their government carries out similar atrocities?

Our allies are also not immune from being called out for instances of potential persecution. Zelensky’s government in Ukraine is attempting to evict Orthodox monks from an 11-century monastery because of its links to Russia. The monks claim they broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church and deny any links to the government in Moscow.

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As with any war, the international community must vigilantly hold bad actors accountable for atrocities. The UN is rightly scrutinizing the numerous human rights violations Russia has been accused of committing and has compiled a list of individuals to hold accountable. The U.S. State Department has designated Russia as a Country of Particular Concern for engaging in continuous systematic violations of religious freedom, which allows us to impose targeted sanctions on government officials and agencies.

While calling attention to war crimes is a positive step toward accountability, talk is cheap and must be accompanied by action. It’s our call as Christians to seek justice and defend the oppressed, Christian and non-Christian alike. Russia and Putin must stand trial for their crimes so that others will be deterred from similar barbaric behavior in the future.


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H/T Fox News (read more at FoxNews.com)

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