Former head of Baptist Union flees abroad after becoming the first Protestant charged for opposing the war in Ukraine. His level of support back home is mixed.
Yuri Sipko is the first to fall.
The 71-year-old former president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists has been one of the few Russian religious leaders to publicly denounce the war in Ukraine. Although secular activists and a few Orthodox priests have been imprisoned for similar opposition, until last month no evangelicals had been targeted.
But on August 8, authorities filed charges against Sipko for publicly disseminating “knowingly false information” against the Russian military. They raided his home and temporarily detained his son. One week later, he was placed on the wanted list.
Tipped off by independent legal monitors, he fled the country on August 5.
“The sun is shining, and I have been provided for,” Sipko told CT in an interview from his refuge in Germany. “Praise the Lord there have been no problems, and policemen are far away from me.”
Waxing poetic, he hoped that the aspiration of Aleksandr Pushkin, the 19th-century Russian bard, might one day be fulfilled:
The heavy-hanging chains will fall,
The walls will crumble at a word;
And Freedom greet you in the light,
And brothers give you back the sword.
Sipko attributes his courage to God. His anti-war activism is inspired by Matthew 10:28, which says to not fear those who can only kill the body. As both a minister of the Word and a citizen of Russia, he feels it was his duty to reveal criminality.
But having long anticipated his arrest, he insists he is not guilty.
“This is a lawless law imposed by a lawless regime, against lawful people,” said Sipko. “The crime is the destruction of Ukraine. Silence, also, is a crime.”
With these words, he impugns nearly all of his evangelical colleagues. …