As in so many conflicts in the past, the war in Ukraine has a religious dimension. Putin masquerades as a defender of Christianity. What he actually has done is co-opt puppet clerics of the state allied Russian Orthodox Church into blessing his renewed quest for Russian imperialism. First step, stamp out the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

FNC: “The fuel behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rage against Ukraine probably has more spiritual and religious foundations than most pundits have acknowledged. For religious leaders, the war in Ukraine is a top concern. For faith leaders in media, this conflict is not just about politics.

Dirk Smith is one of the thousands of faith leaders in media who met last week in Nashville, Tennessee, for the National Religious Broadcasters convention.”

“It’s good versus evil … It is not Russians versus Ukrainians,” Smith says. “The Russian people — they don’t want this…Ukraine, to some extent, is kind of the Bible Belt of Eastern Europe. They have been pushing Christian values, they have been standing up for God for a long time, and they’ve been a beacon of light for quite some time now.”

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Sam Brownback, former Senator and ambassador-at-large of international religious freedom during the Trump administration, says the Russian invasion is a holy war over religion.

“Vladimir Putin, at one point, painted himself as the defender of Christendom. That’s how he fashions himself — that’s part of the impetus.” But three years ago, the leader of the world’s Orthodox Churches, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, gave the Ukraine Orthodox Church independence from the Russian Church in Moscow. To most religious officials, it looked like a victory for religious freedom. But to Putin and his allied Russian Orthodox clergy, it was a humiliation.

Brownback commented, “That blew a gasket with the Russian Orthodox Church. They were livid. It was also 40 percent of their membership, roughly, in Ukraine.” The Russian Orthodox Church was founded in Kyiv in 988. “But then it was later moved to Moscow, their headquarters there. And so to Putin, this is part of Mother Russia. And the Ukrainians don’t want to be part of Mother Russia,” said Brownback.