Archbishop receives criminal conviction for criticising Russia's war in Ukraine

Country: Russia

Date of incident: April 8, 2024

According to the religious freedom watchdog organisation Forum 18, Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov has become the fifth person to receive a criminal conviction for criticising Russia's war in Ukraine from a religious perspective. On April 8, he was found guilty of repeatedly "discrediting" the Russian Armed Forces after condemning the war as "aggressive" and "Satanic" in his sermons.

The Slavyansk City Court in the southern Krasnodar Region fined Archbishop Viktor Pivovarov 150,000 Roubles, which is almost eight times the local average monthly pension. According to Archbishop Viktor's church, the fine will be covered for a large part by money seized from the church during an armed raid by investigative agencies in October 2023 (read the case).

According to Forum 18, Archbishop Viktor has repeatedly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the conduct of the war as "aggressive", "Satanic", and "cursed both by God and by people", in his sermons and articles, and in a YouTube video by independent media outlet Novaya Gazeta Europe in May 2023. His first administrative conviction was in March 2023 for anti-war comments in a sermon.

Viktor Pivovarov is Archbishop in the Russian [Rossiyskaya] Orthodox Church (RosPTs) and leads a rival branch of RosPTs which he established in 2009 after a further split. It is not in communion with either other parts of Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) or the Moscow Patriarchate.

Sources: Forum18