"It's a holy war." The priest from Sputnik now fights with a gun
The prelate that normally serves in Sputnik, the base of the far northern Russian 61st Naval Infantry Brigade, is now fighting in Ukraine with a weapon in his hands. Sergei Cherichenko on social media confirms that he is on the frontline, not as priest but as soldier.
Whereas Cherichenko previously operated online under his full name, he now uses the nickname “Tit.”
His new work assignment is confirmed also by the channel administrator.
“Father Sergei has departed to the zone of the special military operation, now not as spiritual instructor for our warriors like last time, but as military comrade, as commander,” the page administrator writes.
When Sergei Cherichenko went to occupied parts of Ukraine in early 2023, it was as a priest, not soldier.
Nevertheless, back then, ahead of his deployment to the front, Cherichenko was awarded a medal for his efforts to “strengthen the battle brotherhood.”
“We are serving Russia,” the militant prelate known for keen interest in kickboxing said in a comment to the award.
The recent military deployment of Father Sergei reflects the growing radicalisation and militarisation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Already in the early 2000s, the Moscow Patriarchy established a military department that was to work with the Russian Armed Forces. Following Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, this department has sent a big number of clergymen to the occupied territories. The department is headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Stavropol, a radical hardliner that openly agitates for war.
In January 2024, Metropolitan Kirill hosted a conference called “Holy War. The Transformation of Russia,” that was attended by a big number of clergymen, representatives of the Russian Armed Forces, the National Guard (Rosgvardia) and other militant men.
In an address posted on the Telegram channel of the military church department, the high-ranking clergyman argues that Russia and Orthodoxy are under attack.
“The whole world, the so-called Western world, has taken aim at the destruction and division of our country, the destruction of the spiritual moral of our children, destruction of Orthodoxy, Christianity,” he said.
And he calles for big changes in Russia.
[…] When we win this holy war, the transformation of our Russia will of course continue.”
In the recent conference were several of the leading clergymen serving on the occupied Ukrainian land, among them Dmitry Vasilenkov.
In an address, Vasilenkov underlined that “we are now talking about a holy war because of the evil forces that are aimed against us.”
“The victory will be our, because God is with us and the war is holy,” he concluded
In a report from the conference made by Spas, the TV station associated with the Church, the war in Ukraine is described first of all as a fight for “protection of the Orthodox faith.”
“After two years, the special military operation is no longer about denazification and demilitarisation of Ukraine. It is now a fight against global evil forces and for unification of the Russian World (Russkii Mir) and protection of the Orthodox faith,” the channel reports.
According to the Russian Orthodox Church, there are today more than 700 Russian priests serving along the frontline. Is is not clear how many of them, beyond Sergei Cherichenko, that are fighting with weapons in their hands.
Cherichenko fights along with a big number of soldiers from the Kola Peninsula. Both the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade from Sputnik and the nearby 200th Motorised Rifle Brigade are active participants in the battles and are believed to have lost many hundred men.
The two brigades are today believed to be fighting primarily in the Kherson and Bakhmut areas.
The home bases of the two brigade are located only few kilometres from the border to Norway and Finland and are traditionally known for their well-trained soldiers.
Since he started his service in Sputnik, Father Sergei is said to have made big efforts in vitalising local church life, and the tiny church building in the base has gotten a major renovation.
Cherichenko is well-established cleric in the Kola Peninsula and is believed to be a close associate of regional Metropolitan Mitrofan. According to the Murmansk diocese, Cherichenko chairs the regional church Department for Physical Education and Sports.
In a video comment on Telegram published during his previous stay on occupied Ukrainian land he underlined that “we are united by a common understanding that we are fighting against evil, where we, and only we, are the representatives of the light […]”
Now, the Sputnik priest is himself a warrior and could ultimately be involved in some of the grave war crimes committed by Russian soldiers on Ukrainian soil.