For over a year now, a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on. At that time, the world saw all the cynicism and senselessness of the Kremlin’s policy. Shocking war crimes, destruction of civilian infrastructure, illegal deportation of Ukrainians – this is not a complete list of what the “Russian world” brought to the newly occupied Ukrainian lands.
All this time, the Crimean collaborators fully supported Putin’s policy, moreover, they actually became accomplices in the genocide of the Ukrainian people.
However, in this material we want to draw attention to another dimension of collaborationism – the use of the religious confessions of the occupied Crimea as a tool of criminal “justification” of armed aggression.
It is not news that the Kremlin has long used religion to spread its criminal narratives, including in the occupied peninsula. That is why the experts of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea decided to analyze specific facts and events, in particular, concerning the structures of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) and the Muslim structures of Crimea controlled by the collaborators.
Let’s start with the structures of the MP, which quite actively unlawfully showed themselves back in 2014, when the Ukrainian peninsula was seized. In those days, “polite priests” actively supported the occupiers. One should recall the numerous subversive sermons that sounded from the mouths of the priests of the Simferopol and Crimean eparchy of the MP.
The latter, by the way, personally went to capture Ukrainian military units and tried, under the guise of “faith”, to force the Ukrainian military to surrender. Some clergymen even joined the criminal “militia”.
Separate temples of the MP at that time even turned into armories. In particular, weapons and invaders were placed in the Church of All Saints in Feodosia, the Church of Peter and Paul and others. All these criminal processes were coordinated by Crimean collaborators, who, together with the FSB, began to actively put pressure on religious communities.
This pressure occurred with the help of psychological levers, but it also reached banal threats. As a result, individual priests of the MP were forced to sign “documents of cooperation” with the Russian special services . In the first years of the occupation, the Crimean collaborators made it clear that they needed only controlled Orthodoxy, fully serving their interests on the Ukrainian peninsula. One should only remember how in 2018 MP priests “consecrated” the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems of the invaders in Dzhankoy .
This very clearly demonstrates that the Kremlin is criminally using religion to militarize the occupied peninsula and to try to form an anti-Ukrainian position among the Crimean residents. After the start of a full-scale invasion, we have witnessed an increase in influence on the Crimean religious communities. First of all, this concerns the establishment of total control over the “dioceses” of the temporarily occupied Crimea.
In particular, the Russian Orthodox Church essentially “appropriated” the dioceses in Dzhankoy, Simferopol and Feodosia. They began to “submit personally to Patriarch Kirill, with administrative subordination to the Holy Synod” of Kirill . The Russian occupiers declared the so-called “Crimean metropolis”, the “necessity” of which, according to the Kremlin, is due to the alleged “lack of ties” with the “Kyiv metropolis” .
In other words, the Kremlin got the opportunity to spread its own criminal narratives on the occupied peninsula without any, even “formal” barriers and restrictions, including the narratives of the war against Ukraine. It should be noted that the creation of this “metropolis” should be seen as an attempt to resist the reduction in the activity of the MPs in the sub-Klontroll territory of Ukraine. That is, the “Crimean metropolis”, according to the criminal plan of the Kremlin, should become the new center of the Russian church on the territory of Ukraine.
It is possible that the Kremlin is already preparing for the de-occupation of the peninsula, and they want a “cell of Russian Orthodoxy” to remain there, which in the future may become a tool for new provocations by the successors of the modern Russian aggressor.
After these events, the situation around Christians in the occupied Crimea became even worse. This is due to the Kremlin’s promotion of the concept of “national Orthodoxy”, which provides for repressive and restrictive “legislation” in the field of the right to freedom of conscience and religion.
Since the beginning of the war, the MP in Crimea has been trying to “destroy” as much as possible all other religious organizations that refuse to cooperate with collaborators and disseminate their narratives . Therefore, the above concept implies coercion to cooperate with the Crimean collaborators and to serve their criminal initiatives.
One of the key criminal tasks of the “religious front” of the Crimean collaborators is the expulsion of the Crimean diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) from the temporarily occupied peninsula. We are talking about a ban on services, restricting the entry of OCU priests into the territory of the occupied peninsula. One of the occupiers’ tools is to link to the criminal “citizenship of the aggressor”, that is, persons who do not recognize it are unlawfully deprived of the right to serve believers .
Under the conditions of war, the goal of such a “monopoly” of the MP is quite obvious – it is criminal to form hatred for Ukraine among believers and “justify” the armed aggression of the Kremlin . The narratives of the MP seek to form a fake idea among ordinary Crimeans about the allegedly “exceptional role of Russia in the history of mankind”, as well as about the allegedly “inevitability of occupation”.
In addition, the priests of the MP openly cooperate with the Russian military, providing them with “moral and psychological” support. We are talking about the “consecration” of flags, weapons, ships. There is also a significant militarization of education, in which “religious leaders” actively participate.
The main criminal task in this area is to replace the Ukrainian identity with the Russian one. The solution to this problem is due to the illegal promotion of narratives about the alleged “unity of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples”, as well as the idea of the “Russian world”.
Moreover, MP priests from the occupied peninsula are already carrying these criminal narratives to the newly occupied territories of Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions. For example, the practice of providing the local population with manipulative “humanitarian aid” with simultaneous pro-Russian sermons is very common .
The MP holds numerous public events to criminally support the war against Ukraine. As examples, we note the following: “blessing” the criminally “mobilized” Crimeans, opening “alleys of heroes” about the killed military aggressors, holding “liturgies” about the “victory” of the aggressor’s army, participating in the so-called “anti-Nazi forum”. Cases are known when MP activists attracted children to write letters to the military aggressor to the front.
The scale of the participation of priests in such actions is due to the fact that over the past year in the occupied Crimea, the MP has significantly increased the number of “bishops and employees of diocesan administrations”. This allowed the patriarchy to control the activities of individual parishes in the criminal promotion of Kremlin narratives among Crimeans . That is, we are talking about a kind of “ideological front”, within which the MP seeks to destroy Ukrainian identity and instill hatred of Ukraine among believers.
A rather complicated situation has developed on the occupied peninsula with the parishes of the Greek Catholic Church. In particular, out of 11 parishes, the invaders “allowed” only five, which can only be visited by “registered parishioners”, the invaders persecuted individual priests and parishioners for their pro-Ukrainian position, there were cases of obvious pressure and coercion to leave the occupied peninsula . A similar situation exists with the Roman Catholics. It is seen that the occupiers “tolerate” their presence in the Crimea for the criminal “flirting” with the Vatican, which is subject to the Crimean Exarchate.
Similar trends are observed in the Muslim life of the Crimean Tatar people.
In particular, from the beginning of the temporary occupation, the Crimean collaborators created a fully controlled structure “Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Crimea” (“DUMK”), which, also after the start of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, began to actively act criminally in the direction of the ideological “zombification” of the Crimean Muslims.
The almost complete liquidation of uncontrolled mosques and their declaration “outside the legal field” allowed the aggressor to establish control over the religious life of the Crimean Muslims. In this case the concept of “unofficial Islam” was used, that is, the “non-recognition” by the “DUMK” of all Muslim leaders and mosques condemning the war in Ukraine, according to a scenario very similar to the activities of the MP. Thus, the self-proclaimed “mufti” of Crimea, Emirali Ablaev, criminally publicly supported the armed aggression and called on the Crimean residents “to join the ranks of the Russian army or to help it in every possible way”.
The so-called “Muslim leaders” are actively involved by the invaders in the “media space” of the occupied Crimea, where they actively “condemn” all Muslims who spoke out against the war and who support the territorial integrity of Ukraine .
Experts of the State Service of Ukraine on Ethnopolitics note the powerful ideological control by the occupiers of the religious life of the Muslims of the Crimea, which, in particular, manifests itself in the censorship of sermons . In these sermons, the DUMK predictably criminally prescribes praising Russia and “justifying” the war in Ukraine in every possible way, spreading certain political narratives, in particular, about alleged “US support for neo-Nazis.”
The Muslim “leaders” of the aggressor-controlled occupied Crimea, are also carrying out active illegal measures to assert the allegedly “indisputable authority” of the Supreme Mufti of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin. This is an illegal attempt to integrate the Crimean Tatar people into the Muslim space of the aggressor state, which, of course, is dominated by full support for the Kremlin’s policy.
In particular, the aforementioned Talgat Tadzhuddin last year criminally supported the war against Ukraine, and said that it must be “brought to an end”. He also criminally placed “all the blame for this war” on the Ukrainians . This is unconditional proof of the criminal support by the controlled “leaders” of the Crimean Muslims not only for temporary occupation, but also for the Kremlin’s genocidal policy against Ukraine. The latter became the basis for sermons in the mosques of the occupied Ukrainian peninsula controlled by the Crimean collaborators.
As in the case of the MP, Muslim “leaders” controlled by the aggressor constantly criminally and publicly support the military aggressor, manipulating the criminally “mobilized” Crimean Tatars. In these illegal installations, they do not forget about Putin’s fake “greatness”, his “place in the modern history of the world” and the alleged “wisdom” of the Kremlin’s foreign policy.
In particular, the occupiers recently held a “Holy Ramadan Cup”, which formally “was supposed to bring Muslims together”. In practice, the event was purely populist in nature, and was aimed at a fake “condemnation” of the sanctions of world sports institutions, which were introduced due to the armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine. So, the Russian elite criminally uses religion not only to promote narratives of the Ukrainian genocide, but also to “resolve foreign policy issues”, in particular, to try to minimize world pressure on the aggressor state.
In the activities of the occupiers, there is also a tendency to strengthen the “vertical” of Muslim structures controlled by the Kremlin, which makes it possible to criminally influence a larger number of believers. Moreover, the similarity of the statements of the aggressor-controlled Muslim “leaders” testifies to the formation of this structure.
For example, after last year’s criminal statements by the self-proclaimed “mufti” of Crimea, similar “statements on the ground” immediately began to be heard, in particular from Ablaev’s “subordinates” in Sevastopol.
Thus, the aggressor state, with the support of the Crimean collaborators, seeks to direct the religious life of the Crimean residents in the direction of supporting the war against Ukraine and the genocide of the Ukrainian people. To do this, through repression and intimidation, exclusively controlled religious structures were left on the peninsula, actively involved in the “ideological front” of the aggressor.
The key directions of the criminal “religious” policy of the aggressor today are the desire to “educate” believers in humility towards the invaders, support for the war and the Kremlin’s policy, as well as condemnation of the Ukrainian government.
The criminal activities of the religious structures, controlled by the aggressor, occur simultaneously in several directions: “ideological work” with the Crimean residents, the expansion and establishment of controlled structures, “work” with believers in the occupied territories, and the dissemination of pro-Kremlin political narratives.
In this process, the Crimean collaborators were assigned the criminal function of coordinating, participating in repressions of objectionable religious organizations and assisting in the formation of an appropriate organizational structure by controlled religious “leaders”. The consequences of such a criminal collaboration are direct restrictions on the right of Crimeans to freedom of conscience and religion, oppression of religious communities by the aggressor state.