“Russia’s war in Ukraine is a colonial war. We are dealing with an absolutely genocidal plan” — His Beatitude Sviatoslav

March 15, 2023, 22:36 101

More than a year has passed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — a great war that has affected everyone — although with the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of part of eastern Ukraine, it has been going on since 2014. Today, Ukraine is not alone in this confrontation between “man and barbarity”. The world supports Ukrainians and admires their courage, and wants to understand the essence of this war, its ideological reasons and origins.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine is a colonial war. We are dealing with an absolutely genocidal plan” — His Beatitude Sviatoslav

His Beatitude Sviatoslav in Mykolaiv during his pastoral visit to southern Ukraine, 17 October 2022

The book God Has Not Abandoned Ukraine is a conversation between the Father and Head of the UGCC, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, and Polish journalist Krzysztof Tomasik precisely about this. One of the main questions asked by the journalist is what is this war?

“Today, the word ‘war’ means great pain for Ukrainians. In the word ‘war’ we hear the bombardment of Russian missiles and drones, we see the destruction and we are aware that in a moment an entire city can disappear, that an entire region can become a wasteland. Perhaps for some people in the world, war is still a computer game. But in reality, war is a game of human destinies, the destinies of entire nations and states. Therefore, for Ukrainians, the word ‘war’ also means a great crime, and those who started the war are criminals.

“For Ukrainians, the word ‘war’ also means genocide. We are a nation that survived the genocide of 1932–1933, and we still bear its great wounds. People died of starvation in the vast expanses of Ukraine, with its fertile black soil. In 2022, we commemorated the ninetieth anniversary of the Holodomor, which was aimed at depriving people of their right to life and at destroying them because they considered themselves a separate people. The same thing is happening today, because the one who comes from Russia to Ukraine today comes not only to take the land, but also to destroy those who live on this land.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav spoke about the genocidal nature of this war, about the reasons why Russia seeks to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians. His Beatitude calls it a colonial war, and here’s why:

“If you look deeply, this is a real colonial war. Firstly, Russia does not recognise the very fact of the existence of the Ukrainian people. They say that being Ukrainian means being a follower of an ideology, that it is not a question of ethnicity or nationality; that it was the ideology of Nazism that made us Ukrainians, and so they are starting a war to denazify us, that is, to transform us once more into Russians. Obviously, we are dealing with an absolutely genocidal plan, because denazification is equal to extermination. How can you turn someone into a Russian if they have never been one? We are Ukrainians from our grandparents and great-grandparents. We have our own language, culture, history, Churches, and, finally, we have our own state.

“Secondly, it is really a colonial war, because Russia believes that the Ukrainian state has never existed, and that we have no right to exist. It believes that the Ukrainian state, which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was a temporary historical mistake. And now the great ‘corrector,’ who corrects history, comes to show us who and what we should be. It was constantly repeated that the Ukrainian state is a ‘failed state’ and has no meaning, that if you so much as touch it with your finger, it will collapse. With such hopes, the Russian ‘corrector and saviour’ invaded Ukraine, hoping that everything would fall apart by itself and he would be greeted with flowers; that for the citizens of Ukraine their own state was an injustice, and he would make everyone happy.

“Third, Russia has always needed Ukraine for its greatness. Why? Because it stole our roots of self-awareness. They stole our baptism by Volodymyr the Great. They appropriated the history of Kyivan Rus. They stole the central and nation-forming role of Kyiv. Every time something was revived in Kyiv, whenever it became a centre — whether ecclesiastical, religious, cultural or for the state — a ‘punitive expedition’ always invaded from the north and destroyed everything. They believed that Russia would not be great without Kyiv. That is, our land is not a separate state for them, but only a territory that they claim. Moreover, they say that this is geopolitically Russia’s zone, or, to use ecclesiastical terminology, their canonical territory. Therefore, any difference of Ukrainians is an insult to them. They want to turn Ukrainians into Russians, and this is the tragedy of this war.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav says that under President Putin, the Soviet system has actually been revived in Russia, and Soviet myths have been activated, upon which a new revanchist policy could be built:

“For example, starting with the glorification of Stalin and Lenin, the revival of various youth communist movements, such as the Pioneers, etc. There is a powerful communist party in Russia today. At the same time, Putin began to exploit the stereotypes that in the minds of these people levelled their inferiority complex after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Reviving Soviet propaganda myths about the victory in World War II, he explicitly said that Russia would have defeated Hitler without the help of other nations. And that today, Russia, the heir to the Soviet Union, can again threaten the world, using blackmail with nuclear weapons, as the Soviet Union once did.

Ukraine, due to a number of factors — geographical location, cultural development — has begun to move towards Europe with new generations. We have begun to identify ourselves more and more as a European country, and that is why this war is a clash of two trends: in Russia, nostalgia for the past is reviving — Putin’s ideology does not contain an idea of the future. At the same time Ukraine is looking to the future, it wants to be a European country, because millions of Ukrainians have seen a different world and realised that they no longer want to live the way they used to. Ukraine has chosen its own path as an independent state.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav emphasises that independence and freedom are the fundamental choice of the Ukrainian people, which is confirmed every day, no matter what:

“When you climb a mountain, you see how far you have to go to reach the top. When you go on a long journey, you look at the map to see how far you have already travelled. Today, we don’t know how much further we have to go and how much we have already travelled. But the more crimes Russia commits against our people — outright crimes — the more Ukrainians mobilise. Because they say: ‘We have no other choice.’ We are learning to hold on, to withstand, and not to give up. We are learning to turn this great misfortune and suffering into an experience that has meaning, purpose, and wisdom of its own. Of course, no one wants to suffer. We don’t want it for ourselves nor do we wish it upon anyone else. However, there is a higher purpose for which we are willing to make sacrifices. When I visited different people — in different parts of Ukraine, in different parishes, from different social strata — I never heard anyone say: ‘Maybe we should give up, maybe it will be less painful…’ Not from anyone! Because everyone has already seen what the Russians did to those who surrendered. Therefore, there is no such sentiment that we are tired, that we cannot withstand the pain, and that we should surrender. On the contrary, all of this causes righteous anger in Ukrainian society. Anger that turns into courage. Ukraine has learned to defend itself, and that is why we are a completely different country today than even a few months ago.”

Information Department of the UGCC

See also