The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, said he is convinced there is no alternative to a good neighborhood policy between Russia and Ukraine but that the refusal by Russian church and government leaders to recognize Ukrainians as a separate people makes dialogue between the two countries impossible.
Shevchuk shared his views in a presentation titled “Ukraine-Poland-Russia: are peace and reconciliation possible?” at the 10th Gniezno Conference in Poland, March 12, on the occasion of the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland, as reported by the department of Information of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
“By studying the present situation from the perspective of the French-German-Polish relations after World War II, we see that there is no alternative to good Russian-Ukrainian neighborhood policy. Both countries belong to the same geographic area of Eastern Europe, and no one can change the fact that they are neighbors,” he said.
However, Shevchuk admitted that significant ideological obstacles stand in the way.
“The Russian president has announced that the biggest tragedy of the last decade of the XX century was the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he explained. “The situation has escalated since the beginning of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 2014. Russia continues to declare that the war in the Donbas is an internal conflict in Ukraine. The aggression against Ukraine has both a political and a cultural character. Its basis lies in differing worldviews. Russia’s political elites represent thinking based on the idea of building the ‘Russian World.’ This ideology of the ‘Russian World’ is, in my view, the latest legitimization of modern colonialism through the Christian Church,” he said.
Referring to Russia’s position toward Ukraine, Shevchuk noted that Russian authorities deny Ukrainians the very right to exist as a separate people.
“Especially in recent years, senior (Russian) church and states officials keep claiming that Ukrainians and Russians are one people. This kind of position ensures that dialogue becomes impossible because it is not possible to conduct a conversation with someone who does not exist and who has no separate identity. Representatives of the government and the church authorities of the Moscow Patriarchate question the very existence of an independent Ukrainian state,” which they view as “aggression by the West and violence perpetrated against the Russian people,” he said.
According to Shevchuk, the government of the Russian Federation is trying to revive old Communist geopolitical claims and does not want to condemn the crimes of Communism not only in relation to the Russian and Ukrainian people, but against other people as well, including the Poles.