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'Maybe they are a brother in Christ on the other side?': Russian pastor says government cares little for religious views as men flee conscription

by Sophie Drew

As young men race to the border, a Russian pastor says the government cares little for the religious views of those avoiding the war.

President Vladimir Putin has called up an extra 300,000 reserve servicemen, whilst Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s urging Russians to avoid conscription “at all costs”.

Father Vitaly Vlasenko , General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, says there are very few volunteers left that are willing to put their lives on the line for their country.

At the start of the war, he estimates that around 70 per cent of the country’s men were happy to fight.

Now that the reality of the dangers of war have begun to set it, many are attempting to flee.

The pastor claims many young men are asking him whether it is ok for Christians to kill people if it means they are protecting “the motherland”.

He told Premier Christian News: “I have to talk with young people who are willing or unwilling to participate in the war, especially as many Russian Evangelicals are pacifists; they believe that you cannot kill another person.

“The Russian government doesn’t really care about religious beliefs or anything like this.

“Right now, people are asking ‘Pastor, what should I do? Is this war fair? Should I kill or not kill another person? Maybe they are a brother in Christ on the other side?”

It’s not just through his ministry that Father Vitaly is witnessing the fear – he’s feeling it himself.

He said: “I have a son, he's 21 years old.

“I'm also worried about him.

“If you refuse to go to the army, you have to pay a big penalty and you can go to jail for a long time.

“This is a really, really tough time.

“We need to pray and trust the Lord, and continue to discuss with government officials about this situation."

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