By Paul Goble
Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov, long a favorite of Vladimir Putin and an odds-on favorite to eventually replace Patriarch Kirill as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has broken with the Kremlin leader and called for Russia to conclude a peace with Ukraine, an appeal that may have a greater impact on Putin than those of others.
Speaking on Russia24, Tikhon said that Ukraine has overwhelmed Russians and that “there is no doubt that we are experiencing an unprecedented tragedy … Everyone is now calling for peace, and that is an expression of the need of the human soul” (smotrim.ru/video/2511850 and t.me/dimsmirnov175/40062).
Ukrainians and Russians are brothers, he continued; but for the present, “they [the Ukrainians] don’t want to call us brothers. Nonetheless, we understand that they are brothers … I am deeply convinced of this. Only God will unit those who are no longer united and pacify the hatred now pouring out in this conflict.”
When Putin launched his expanded invasion, the ROC MP supported it; and when he called for a partial mobilization, it supported that as well. But in September, Patriarch Kirill said that Russians should not consider Ukrainians enemies, although he remained within the Kremlin paradigm by insisting that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people.”
Tikhon’s words offer a chance to go beyond that. He did not insist on the one people formulation but rather spoke of the two nations as brothers who need to be reconciled. This could cost him his ties with Putin, but it could also have an impact on the Kremlin leader who in the past has regularly consulted with the metropolitan.