Ukrainian Church welcomes Turkey’s mediation between Kyiv and Moscow

A leading religious body in Donbass, a breakaway region on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, has hailed Turkey’s role in resolving the conflict between Kiev and Moscow.

“I am glad that on the political Olympus the top leaders of Turkey and Ukraine have a dialogue and intend to develop this dialogue. Turkey is ready to mediate between Russia and Ukraine … I have a lot of respect for (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan, I notice (his) wisdom,” Vladimir Zubenko, head of the Interfaith Council of Churches in the city of Kramatorsk, told Anadolu Agency. which includes more than 20 churches and six different Christian denominations.

Zubenko, 58, a pastor for nearly 30 years, said Turkey was “a pretty influential country”.

Stressing that he is also in favor of developing relations “in the right direction” with Russia, Zubenko said: “We have no principled enemies with whom we are never ready to have relations. Time will pass, and I’m sure we can have good neighborly communication and relations (with Russia).”

“At least the Church believes in it, we have brothers of faith in Russia with whom we maintain relations,” he added.

– The role of Turkey

“Turkey’s role is quite important. For me, personally, Turkey’s role is very obvious, even much more than some European countries. Turkey is a powerful country, it is a member of NATO and has weight important in the Muslim world,” he said.

Last week, Erdogan reiterated that he was ready to welcome the leaders of Russia and Ukraine to “pave the way for the restoration of peace” as tensions between the two countries show few signs of abating.

Wishing “peace and prosperity” to Ukraine and Turkey, Zubenko said that by God’s will the two nations will continue to have good neighborly relations.

“Yes, Turkey, in the past Ottoman Empire, under the rulers that were then, it was not only influential, it was the number one state or empire on the globe, and had a serious impact on everything , including some cultural aspects. And today we see that Turkey has not lost all its influence or dominance on the political Olympus,” the pastor said.

Zubenko pointed out that although today there are other countries that have become “the favorites”, “but Turkey remains … a strong state of wise men”.

Recalling the war some eight years ago, Zubenko noted that 2014 in Kramatorsk – a town in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast – was an “unstable year” as the town was occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

“I am not a political expert… I have served in the army before and I think that the contingent on the border is insufficient to achieve a deep invasion into the country, especially from the front line , as well as to preserve positions in the occupied cities,” he said.

“It’s my subjective opinion, (the Russian army near the borders) is not enough against the 200,000 regular army soldiers (from Ukraine) and almost 400,000 reserve soldiers. But the situation is very unusual,” he said.

Zubenko said they were praying to God, “who is powerful enough to stop all aggression,” to protect the country.

– Pray for peace

Pastor Petr, who has been serving in the Greek Catholic Church since 2019, said that “the Church, like the whole country, is going through this war situation”, adding that they follow the latest news on the conflict.

“And our whole church is praying for peace in our country,” he said.

“Our religious service begins with a common prayer for peace from heaven, and we ask God for great mercy,” he said, noting that local people ask God to resolve everything peacefully.

The pastor noted that along with ordinary people, some Ukrainian servicemen also visit the church for service. Pastors also visit nearby military units from time to time for service members who cannot visit the church.

Russia recently mustered tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, raising fears the Kremlin is planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.

Moscow denied preparing to invade and said its troops were there for exercises. He also issued a list of security demands, including that Ukraine not join NATO.

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