Putin to 'answer to God' for 'viciousness' says ex-archbishop of York

Putin will ‘have one day to answer to God’ for ‘absolute viciousness’ says ex-archbishop of York John Sentamu after mass graves and 280 bodies were found outside Kyiv

  • The former archbishop of York said Vladimir Putin will ‘have to answer to God’  
  • John Sentamu, 72, asked how Putin, a Christian, can say his prayers at night   
  • It comes as mass graves were found on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv
  • Mr Sentamu said during prayers today: ‘To unleash such brutality is beyond me’

The former archbishop of York has said that Vladimir Putin will ‘have one day to answer to God’ for the ‘absolute viciousness’ he is unleashing on the Ukrainian people.

John Sentamu, 72, questioned how the president, who identifies as a Russian Orthodox Christian, can say his prayers at night after inflicting acts of ‘evil’ in Ukraine.

The Russian Orthodox Church has backed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that has seen the Russian President accused of war crimes.

Mass graves were found yesterday on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, as Ukrainians claimed Russian forces ‘booby-trap corpses and execute civilians while retreating from recaptured Kyiv area’.

John Sentamu, 72, (centre), questioned how Putin, who identifies as a Russian Orthodox Christian, can say his prayers at night after inflicting acts of ‘evil’ in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin presents flowers during a ceremony to Russian Orthodox Christian leader Patriarch Kirill last year 

Members of the public joined church leaders leading a crowd in an act of witness outside the Ukrainian embassy in Holland Park, west London

They spontaneously sang the national anthem of Ukraine in a show of solidarity

It comes after reports of mass graves and civilian execution as Russian forces retreated from the Kyiv region

Territorial defence fighters told The Times they found the mutilated bodies of 18 people, including women and children as young as 14, in a cellar.  

Horrific images emerged of bodies strewn across the streets of commuter town Bucha, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces on Friday. 

Ukraine’s foreign minister on Sunday accused Russian forces of carrying out a ‘massacre’ in the town of Bucha, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described images of dead bodies there as ‘a punch in the gut’.

Russia’s defence ministry denied the Ukrainian allegations, saying footage and photographs showing dead bodies in Bucha were ‘yet another provocation’ by Kyiv.

After Ukraine said on Saturday its forces had reclaimed control of the whole Kyiv region, images of corpses in civilian clothes left behind by departing Russian troops prompted calls from officials in Ukraine and Europe for tougher sanctions on Russia.

The outrage in Ukraine and abroad added to pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin because it increased the likelihood of further Western sanctions.

However, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church held a service for Russian soldiers on Sunday in which he called on them to defend their country ‘as only Russians can’ as Moscow continues its military campaign in Ukraine.

At the lavishly decorated Main Cathedral of the Armed Forces opened two years ago in Kubinka outside Moscow, Patriarch Kirill told a group of servicemen and servicewomen that Russia was a ‘peace-loving’ country that had suffered greatly from war.

Ukrainian policemen check the wreckage of Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APC) in Dmytrivka village, west of Kyiv, on April 2

Ukrainian servicemen walk next to destroyed Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APC) in Dmytrivka

Burned Russian armoured vehicles are seen on the outskirts of Kyiv. Since the conflict began in late February, Russia has lost an estimated 143 planes, 131 helicopters, 625 tanks and 316 artillery pieces

‘We absolutely do not strive for war or to do anything that could harm others,’ said the patriarch, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

‘But we have been raised throughout our history to love our fatherland. And we will be ready to protect it, as only Russians can defend their country.’

Kirill, 75, has previously made statements defending Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and sees the war as a bulwark against a Western liberal culture that he considers decadent, particularly over the acceptance of homosexuality.

His support for the military intervention, in which thousands of soldiers and Ukrainian civilians have been killed, has angered some within the Orthodox church at home as well as in churches abroad linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Mr Sentamu joined other church leaders today in saying prayers outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Holland Park, west London.

Around a hundred Christians, including some from Ukraine, held a minute’s silence for the war-torn country while holding blue and yellow hearts in the air.

Mr Sentamu described Ukraine as a ‘very, very strong Christian country’ and condemned the violence seen over the weekend in Bucha, near Kyiv, as ‘brutality, absolute viciousness’. 

When asked whether Mr Putin can ever be forgiven for his actions in the eyes of the church, Mr Sentamu said: ‘First of all, the people who are going to forgive him are the Ukrainians, and the rest of us can try to remind him that the Cross of Jesus is the end of violence.

‘If you really wear a cross like I do, you must be non-violent.

Ukrainian servicemen ride on a fighting vehicle outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 2, 2022. As Russian forces pull back from Ukraine’s capital region, retreating troops are creating a ‘catastrophic’ situation for civilians by leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and ‘even the bodies of those killed,’ President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned Saturday. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Destroyed cars are seen on a highway 20km from Kyiv, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 2, 2022. REUTERS/Mikhail Palinchak

A Ukrainian soldier passes by destroyed Russian tanks in the village of Dmytrivka close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, April 2, 2022. At least ten Russian tanks were destroyed in the fighting two days ago in Dmytrivka. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

‘To unleash such brutality is just beyond me.

‘If I was a Russian Orthodox Bishop, actually, I would be going and telling Putin that what he’s doing is contrary to the love of God, contrary to humanity as we know it, contrary really to anything else.

‘To invade another free country in the way he is doing is just not on.

‘He will have one day to answer to God.’

When asked whether he held any hope in the ability of Christian leaders to appeal to Mr Putin through religious reasoning, he said: ‘What I would say to him, is whenever you see the poor, the vulnerable, looking at you – that’s Jesus looking at you.

‘Because he [Jesus] is among the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, the unloved.

‘So Putin, if he is saying he is doing all this – how can he say his prayers at night, particularly that phrase in the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil?”

Destroyed cars are seen on a highway 20km from Kyiv, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv region, Ukraine, April 2, 2022. REUTERS/Mikhail Palinchak

Local residents in the village of Dmitrivka, near Kyiv, emerge from their homes and begin clearing away the burned remains of Russian tanks after a string of successful Ukrainian counterattacks

‘How can he do evil acts and then say: “I’m on God’s side” – never, never, never.’

Mr Sentamu said he visited Odesa in 1983 and was overcome with the ‘remarkable’ hospitality of the residents there, so he was saddened to see the city had heard explosions this weekend.

Reverend Dyfrig Rees, 62, general secretary of the Union of Welsh Independents, which represents 350 congregational churches in the nation, also attended the act of witness with his wife, Mandy Rees, 62.

He said he hoped Ukrainians would find people around the world saying prayers for them ‘inspiring and encouraging’.

Mr Rees said: ‘I’m sure that if someone tells someone now in Ukraine there were 100 people in London thinking about you praying for you and standing with you, I’m sure that’s going to keep them going.

‘I felt pride and I felt inspired and I felt filled with hope and joy.’ 

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