Head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church compares Russia's actions to Nazi Germany

(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A man wearing military fatigues walks along a street heading in to Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has compared Russia's annexation of Crimea to actions taken by the Nazis before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Patriarch Filaret Denysenko was quoted by Godreports as describing the recent annexation as an "Anschluss", referring to the German forced reunification with Austria led by Hitler.

Patriarch Denysenko said Russian President, Vladimir Putin, had broken three of the Ten Commandments, namely: do not kill, do not bear false witness against your neighbour, and do not covet your neighbour's house or anything that is your neighbours.

He also accused Putin of showing contempt for international law: "Now, according to Russian authorities, any dispute in the 'zone of interests' of the Kremlin can be solved by military force and other means of pressure.

"[Putin is] ignoring the very principles of law and justice, the interstate and international agreements, the opinion of the world community."

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Patriarch Denysenko criticised Putin's dismissive attitude to Russia's treaty obligations to respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of borders of Ukraine.

He also drew attention to the ongoing situation on the ground in Crimea, and the danger for prominent members of the local community.

"In the occupied Crimea community activists disappear without a trace.

"The Russian leadership is personally responsible for all this," the Patriarch declared.

Regarding Putin's promise to protect "Russian-speaking people", Patriarch Denysenko pointed out that there are substantial Russian speaking populations in countries including Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Finland and Mongolia.

If Putin continues in his current trend, the Patriarch suggested these countries had reason to be afraid.

He also revealed concern about Putin's use of terms like "Russian World", "historical Russia," and the idea that "Ukrainians and [Russians] are one people".

Patriarch Denysenko said they were "a replica of the ideology and rhetoric of the fascist regimes of the twentieth century, particularly in Germany and Italy".

He was critical of restrictions on the flow of information within Russia, saying the media was telling "half-truths and outright lies about the events in Ukraine, while blocking access to any alternative point of view".

"The Russian authorities — as before the authorities of the fascist states — deceived its own people that mostly welcomes and approves its criminal acts.

"Actions of the Ukrainian state can cause criticism, but remember: the occupation authorities will not allow any criticism."

He welcomed the EU's recent moves to strengthen ties with the new Ukraine but suggested the international community should take a tougher stand against Russia. 

"I appeal again to the international community: the time for declarations of deep concern expired long ago. It's time to act," he said. 

He concluded: "We pray and ask God to protect our country and people from the invasion of strangers, we ask the Lord to strengthen Ukraine with invisible force in the struggle for justice, freedom and peace.

"I call all the faithful to this prayer and firmly believe that the Ukrainian people will win in this fight."

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