Church of England bishop: Ukraine should give up Donbas to get a ceasefire

Comments from the Rt Revd Nick Baines put the Church on course for a fresh row with the Government

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, made the comments in documents published ahead of next month’s meeting of the General Synod

Ukraine should give up its territory to gain a ceasefire from Russia, a senior bishop has said, as the Church of England put itself on course for a fresh row with the Government.

The message is in direct contravention of the Government’s foreign policy, after Boris Johnson said he feared Volodymyr Zelensky could be bounced into agreeing a "s----y" peace deal.

However, the Church of England's lead bishop on foreign affairs said the price of peace could be Russia’s annexation of the Eastern Donbas region. The Kremlin has already illegally annexed Crimea. 

On Thursday night, the Church insisted this was not its "view", adding that “the territorial integrity of Ukraine is without question”. 

But the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said the UK Government’s objectives in Ukraine were “unclear” and claimed that Vladimir Putin could eventually be convinced to give back occupied lands in return for the easing of sanctions.

He criticised sanctions as a “blunt instrument” and warned that “imposing punitive measures which affect all Russians, whatever their view, risks provoking resentment and fuelling nationalism”.

In documents published ahead of next month’s meeting of the General Synod, he said it would be “morally problematic” to oppose a “reasonable” ceasefire to gain “advantage through a protracted conflict”.

The Prime Minister, who is in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, said he would urge Western leaders not to exert pressure on Kyiv to make peace at upcoming Nato and G7 summits.

Mr Johnson said: “Now is not the time to settle and encourage the Ukrainians to settle for a bad peace, for a peace for which they are invited to give up chunks of their territory in return for a ceasefire.

“I think that would be a disaster. It would be a trigger for further escalation by Putin whenever he wanted. That would do much further economic damage to the world.”

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, boards his plane on Thursday to Rwanda where he is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Credit: Dan Kitwood

Suspicions France and Germany want quick ceasefire

There are suspicions in Kyiv that France and Germany want a quick ceasefire because of their economic links to Russia.

In May, Volodymyr Zelensky said the French president had suggested he would have to give up some land to secure a peace deal, which the Ukrainian leader rejected.

On a visit to Kyiv last week, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy insisted that it was for Ukraine alone to decide on the terms of a peace deal.

In April, The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, criticised the Government’s plan to send some asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda as being “the opposite of the nature of God”. The attack earned him the rage of some MPs, who claimed that church and state had long since been separated.

the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby used his Easter Sermon at Canterbury Cathedral to criticise the Government's Rwanda migrants plan Credit: Hollie Adams

A spokesman for the Church of England said on Thursday night that the comments by the Bishop of Leeds were “not the view of the Church of England.

“This is not policy. This is a discussion paper for Synod that notes potential long-term scenarios highlighted in some quarters regarding Ukraine.

“The territorial integrity of Ukraine is without question. As the paper says clearly, the long-term goal should be that Ukraine controls all its territory.”

The row comes as EU leaders approved Ukraine and Moldova as candidate countries to join the bloc at a historic European Council in Brussels on Thursday.

An FCDO spokesperson said:“It’s for Ukraine to decide its own future. Together with our allies we are doing everything we can to strengthen Ukraine’s hand at the negotiation table, and keep up our tough approach to put pressure on Russia to end its illegal war with Ukraine.”