The highest lama of the Republic of Kalmykia, Telo Tulku Rinpoche (also known as Erdne Ombadykow) expressed his support for Ukraine in an interview over the weekend. Telo Rinpoche made the remarks during a conversation with a Russian blogger on YouTube, and in doing so has become the first major religious leader in the Russian Federation to condemn the war.
In his statements, Telo Rinpoche reasoned that Russia was the aggressor and Ukraine was justified in mounting a defense. “I think [the war] is wrong; nobody needs this war. We are all living in the 21st century, all of us want to live peacefully, each country wants to develop. I think the Ukrainian side, of course, is right—it is defending its country, its land, its truth, its constitution, its people. It is very difficult to say and accept that Russia is right. It is very hard to say so, and this is what I cannot [say],” he said during the interview. (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)
In his remarks, Telo Rinpoche echoed some of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s words from the start of the war:
Our world has become so interdependent that violent conflict between two countries inevitably impacts the rest of the world. War is out-dated – non-violence is the only way. We need to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity by considering other human beings as brothers and sisters. This is how we will build a more peaceful world.
Problems and disagreements are best resolved through dialogue. Genuine peace comes about through mutual understanding and respect for each other’s wellbeing.
We must not lose hope. The 20th century was a century of war and bloodshed. The 21st century must be a century of dialogue.
I pray that peace is swiftly restored in Ukraine.*
Telo Rinpoche suggested that any Buddhist leaders openly supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine could not truly believe in what they were saying if they were “real” Buddhists. In mid-June, Telo Rinpoche spoke out against war in general during a talk marking the Buddha’s birthday, but he avoided specific references to Ukraine.
Telo Rinpoche added that he had avoided speaking out earlier about Ukraine because he “did not want to damage the ties between the authorities and Buddhists.” (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty) He made the comments from Mongolia, where he is helping Kalmyks who have fled Russia after Moscow launched its invasion in late February. Even before the recent announcement that hundreds of thousands of Russians would be conscripted to fight, there were waves of people fleeing the country.
Many artists, journalists, and others who had openly questioned Putin’s regime left as soon as possible in February and March in a “first wave.” “A lot of people got notices saying that they were traitors,” said Jeanne Batalova, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, noting the backlash suffered by some Russians—even from their neighbors. (CNBC)
A second wave followed in the months after, as many more people decided to leave Russia. More recently, a third wave of Russians have fled the country. Total numbers have been difficult to ascertain, but at least 194,000 Russian nationals are reported to have fled to neighboring Finland, Georgia, and Kazakhstan in just the first week after Putin’s partial mobilization announcement in September. According to media reports, some 12,000 Russians have entered Mongolia since the start of the war.
President Vladimir Putin’s 21 September announcement has led to an increase in the numbers of Russians entering Mongolia, most of them coming from the largely Buddhist republics of Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva.
In the days following the Russian incursion into Ukraine, faith leaders from across traditions and around the world offered prayers and words of support to the people of Ukraine. Nichiren Shu, a Japanese Buddhist order and one of the largest schools of Nichiren Buddhism, said in their official statement: “As a Buddhist religious organization, Nichiren Shu strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine. . . Using warfare to solve a political problem must never be tolerated.”**
Верховный Лама о мобилизации калмыков // Эмиграция в Монголию и Казахстан (YouTube)
Buddhist Leader Becomes First Religious Head In Russia To Openly Condemn War In Ukraine (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty)
A second wave of Russians is fleeing Putin’s regime (CNBC)
Photos: Russians flee to neighbouring countries amid mobilization (Al Jazeera)
In a major backfire, more Russians are leaving the country because of Putin’s mobilization order than are actually joining the military (Fortune)
“Ukrainians are defending their land”: Buddhist leader in Kalmykia condemns Russian war (Ukrinform)
Buddhist Leader In Kalmykia Condemns Russian War (Kyiv Post)
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