Russian Priest Arrested for Delivering Sermon Against Ukraine War

A Russian priest has been arrested after delivering an anti-war sermon on Sunday over President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Father Ioann Burdin of the Resurrection Church in Russia's western Kostroma region will be tried for anti-war statements in his sermon, and for publishing a link to an anti-war petition on his parish's website, the BBC's Russian service reported.

The priest "committed a public offense aimed at discrediting the Russian armed forces which are conducting a special military operation" in Ukraine, according to a police report quoted by the Media Zona website.

He held his sermon on the final Sunday before Lent in Russia, which is known in the Orthodox Church as "Forgiveness Sunday."

Father Ioann has been accused of discrediting Russia's armed forces. He told parishioners about "Russian troops in Ukraine shelling the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and killing citizens of Ukraine—brothers and sisters in Christ," according to Media Zona.

Father Ioann has a court appearance scheduled this week in the Krasnoselsky District Court of the Kostroma region.

His parish reportedly shared a link last week to an anti-war petition, accompanied by a statement that criticized Putin's decision to launch a full-scale invasion against Ukraine on February 24.

"We, Christians, cannot stand idly by when a brother kills brother, a Christian kills a Christian," the statement said. "Let's not repeat the crimes of those who hailed Hitler's deeds on Sept. 1, 1939."

It comes amid a broader crackdown on free speech in Russia. Russian authorities have prohibited media from calling the invasion of Ukraine a "war"—state-run media outlets adopt the term "special military operation."

The Russian parliament passed a law on Friday that criminalizes the distribution of "fake news" about the Russian military, with those convicted facing up to 15 years in prison.

Since then, a swathe of media outlets have said they were suspending reporting in Russia to protect their journalists, including Britain's BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Bloomberg News, CNN and CBS News.

Other outlets, such as The Washington Post have temporarily removed journalists' bylines to protect their identities.

Independent Russian media outlets TV Rain (Dozhd) and Ekho Moskvy have also suspended operations under mounting pressure from the Kremlin over their coverage of the Ukraine invasion.

Russia's communications regulator Roskomnadzor issued its first warnings on February 26 to TV Rain and Ekho Moskvy, as well as to InoSMI, Mediazona, The New Times, Svobodnaya Pressa, Krym.Realii, Novaya Gazeta, Zhurnalist and Lenizdat.

Russian officials have accused the West of spreading false information in an attempt to sow discord among the Russian people.

Follow our live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine-Russia conflict
A cupola of a destroyed church is seen in the town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on February 21, 2022. A Russian priest was arrested on Sunday after delivering an anti-war sermon over Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. ALEKSEY FILIPPOV/AFP/Getty Images