A foreign country occupying a territory, Sus said, is "responsible for all human rights and religious things in those territories."
According to Alexander Kuzma, chief development officer for the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation who accompanied Bishop Sus on his U.S. trip, the situation for minority religions in Russian-occupied territories is grim.
Indigenous Crimean Tartars, along with Ukrainian Catholics and members of the two autocephalous Orthodox churches, are being forced out of the areas. Others have been imprisoned and tortured.
The religious dimensions to the conflict must be considered, Bishop Sus said. The Russian Orthodox Church has been either silent or supportive of Russian aggression, and has opposed independent Orthodox churches in Ukraine.
The Orthodox Church in the Ukraine, with its metropolitan see in Kiev, was historically under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow, but, when Ukranian Orthodox appealed to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for independent recognition, it sparked a conflict between the two patriarchs, resulting in Moscow severing canonical communion with Constantinople in October, 2018.
Moscow remains opposed Constantinople's plan for an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, mean to bring into communion two other independent Orthodox churches in Ukraine: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
In Russian-occupied areas, the Russian Orthodox Church is now the established Church where before, in Donbas, "there was quite a vibrant network of Byzantine Catholic churches" that was growing before the conflict, Kuzma said. After the occupying forces entered, however, there is now just a "one church need apply" policy.
"The utter hostility to minority religions is very reminiscent of the communist period," Hill told CNA of Russia's treatment of religion. "And as bad as it is in Russia, in some ways-looking at what's happened in Crimea and the Donbas-it seems to be, if anything, worse."
Ukraine is fighting a "hybrid war" of both military and disinformation campaigns, Bishop Sus said, where Russia tries to promote the idea of "Russkiy mir," or a "Russian world" that includes Russian-speaking areas once part of the Russian empire and the former Soviet Union. The Crimea and the Donbas are purportedly considered to be part of this "world."
That idea, Bishop Sus said, is "so dangerous, because you can lose your identity, your dignity, truth, and everything on which we are building democracy and human rights."
Yet the Russian Orthodox Church "feels like they should be cheerleading for the war effort," Kuzma said.
(Story continues below)
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Rather, Sus said, the Church should be an "ambassador of peace, not only for Ukraine but also other countries" including Russia's "awful and dangerous" acts in Syria, Georgia, and Moldova.
While the six-year conflict drags on with no immediate end in sight, Bishop Sus is trying to bind up the country's wounds of war-and preparing for eventual reconciliation whenever the war ends. He has been a military chaplain for the past 16 years, so he has already ministered to war veterans and their families.
"Now we try just to rebuild the bridges which were broken, destroyed by the war," he said.
As chaplain at Sts. Peter and Paul church in Lviv, the military garrison church, the bishop has already conducted 94 funerals for soldiers from west Ukraine who have died in the conflict.
He is also tending to soldiers wounded in the conflict, particularly those who suffer the psychological damage of war. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), domestic violence, thoughts of suicide, and marginalization all haunt these veterans.
"Inside of soldiers and their minds, it [the war] will still continue," he said.