Fears of Russia in Ukraine


S.B.U. warns: Russia will soon begin "armed invasion"

by Tatiana Ivzhenko

Nezavisimaia Gazeta, 12 December 2018


The unification council of Orthodox churches is planned for 15 December in Kiev. On the 13th, a preparatory Bishops' Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate will be held. Yesterday the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (S.B.U.), Vasily Gritsak, declared that church disputes may lead to war.


"The intentional inspiration of inter-confessional conflicts in Ukraine by Russian intelligence services (in conjunction with provocations of terrorist activity) may be the occasion for an open armed invasion of our country be the armed forces of the Russian Federation," the head of the S.B.U. declared. The president of Ukraine is acting as the formal leader in the question of the unification of the three active Orthodox churches (Kiev Patriarchate—UPTsKP, Ukrainian Autocephalous—UAPTs, and Moscow Patriarchate—UPTsMP).


Petro Poroshenko announced the date and place for conducting the unification council:  15 December in Kievan Sophia. And the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Andrei Paruby, suggested transferring this shrine to the new church as its chief church building. Earlier the Ukrainian parliament supported the initiative of the president to transfer the church of St. Andrew (which hitherto was the chief church of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church) to the ecumenical patriarchate. The cathedral of Holy Wisdom, like the church of St. Andrew, remains state property. Previously, church services have been conducted in it only for special events, when representatives of the government have been among the parishioners. Usually representatives of different confessions participate in such services.


The Moscow patriarchate has avoided events in which those churches that are not recognized as canonical participate. In the autumn, the ecumenical patriarchate "rehabilitated" the UPTsKP and UAPTs. But the UPTsMP has not recognized this decision. Last week the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, Onufrey, declared that the unification council will be an illegal assembly inasmuch as representatives of the schismatic groupings will participate. He did not bless the participation of clergymen of his church in this event. It is expected that several representatives of the UPTsMP will obstinately participate in the council.


New difficulties have arisen several days before the scheduled date. According to reports in news media, the Kiev patriarchate has not agreed with the procedure suggested by the ecumenical patriarchate. The brain-child of Patriarch Filaret (UPTsKP) has spoken in favor of an episcopal format for the council and an open procedure of voting, while Istanbul (the location of the ecumenical patriarchate) is recommending involving in participation in the unification council all priests who wish for it and opening the doors to representatives of believers. It is proposed to conduct voting for the head of the new church secretly. The press secretary of the UPTsKP wrote in his page on a social network that all contradictions are resolvable. He thinks that the brouhaha in the news media is connected with the fact that President Poroshenko is playing the role of leader in the united church and the council is being conducted at a time when the pre-election campaign has already begun in Ukraine. "It is clear that several opponents of the current president are interested in arousing strife and inflaming contradictions for political reasons."


Political scientists are noting that the church question is one of the central issues in Poroshenko's election campaign. Its slogan resounds briefly and clearly: "Army, Language, Faith." It was previously reported that the head of state intends to go to Istanbul, along with the head of the united Ukrainian church (who is to be elected at the council on 15 December), in order to receive the tomos concerning autocephaly from the ecumenical patriarchate.


The director of the Ukrainian Institute of Strategies of Global Development and Adaptation, Viktor Levitsky, noted that now the situation is ambiguous.


"The ecumenical patriarchate is convening the council, and its representatives will direct the sessions. But this does not signify that the church that is being created will depend on the Phanar in all matters since it is still proposed to grant it autocephalous status. . . . The UPTsMP has predictably ignored the invitation and forbade ("not blessed," in church language) its bishops and parishioners to participate in the work of the council. The UAPTs completely supported the suggestions of Constantinople, refusing even to nominate its own candidate for primate. But the UPTsKP insists on its own agenda. . . . It is obvious that such contradictions could, if not disrupt the council, then lead to the fact that in each jurisdiction there remains a substantial portion of those dissatisfied with its organization and not recognizing its decision," he wrote in a column for the publication Korrespondent. In Levitsky's opinion, because the leadership of the government has taken upon itself a leading role in church questions, "the attempt to unite the Orthodox churches in Ukraine may merely intensify the disintegration impulses within the state."


Sociologists point out that this line in the election campaign has so far not strengthened the position of Petro Poroshenko. Data of a survey, which was conducted in late November and early December by the Kievan International Institute of Sociology and published this week, showed that among all voters in the first round of the election, 6.5% would vote for Petro Poroshenko (among those who are determined to be surc to participate in the election and not change their mind, it is 11.6%). For example, for Yulia Timoshenko the result would be 11.9% and 21.2% respectively. The candidate next after Poroshenko, the nominee of the "Opposition platform—for life," Yury Boiko, would get 6.2%.


"The military situation has a much more positive effect on the ratings of the current government than the church question. The external threat and aggressive enemy are able to rally voters," one expert told NG. By the way, in declaring martial law in ten oblasts of the country, the Ukrainian government emphasized especially that this will not have an impact on the process of uniting the Orthodox churches and receiving the tomos concerning autocephaly.


But the S.B.U. began in a timely fashion work on preventing destabilization (because of the disagreement of the UPTsMP with Kiev's general line). Last week, searches were conducted in administrative buildings of this church. It was reported that brochures, "Ukrainian Orthodox Church: relationship with government, attitude toward ATO [Anti-terrorism Operation] and church schism. Questions and answers," were confiscated. At the same time in Rovno oblast priests of the UPTsMP were summoned to the S.B.U. for interrogation in a case of treason. Those who protest against the actions of the security forces have begun an action of videos in support of the church on social networks. Participants in this action have been listed on the infamous "Peacemaker" website.


The head of the S.B.U. thinks that the situation is potentially dangerous. He sees a threat that the current contradictions may be used by Russia "for open armed invasion." The S.B.U. published two booklets devoted, as the press service reported, "to terrorist activity of special services of the RF in Ukraine and the use by Russia in the hybrid war of religious structures of the Moscow patriarchate."


The director of military programs of the Razumkov Center, Nikolai Sungurovsky, told the publication Apostrof that the experience of recent years has shown that no special occasions are necessary. "Their (the Russian side—NG) tactic of action is pressure (on Ukraine—NG), not only externally but also internally. . . . They spot weak points of the opponent and try to deploy resources rather rationally. If the goal can be attained by less force, then they will use them. . . . On the border with Ukraine stands a grouping of 80,000 men, and there also are groupings in Crimea and in Transnistria. If necessary, those sleeping cells that are in Ukraine will be awakened. There also is a border with Belarus. We are surrounded on all sides. . . . Putin's main goal is not the destruction of Ukraine but making Ukraine his satellite and preventing its joining the E.U. and N.A.T.O. So that it will be in Russia's orbit." (tr. by PDS, posted 12 December 2018)



Religiia v Ukraine, 12 December 2018


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on 5 December, during a speech at the Forum on Local Government in Kiev, urged local authorities to conduct a dialogue with society about the creation of an autocephalous local Orthodox church in Ukraine, and not to permit possible provocations. And on 8 December, in Lvov, Poroshenko declared that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has received threats from Moscow for the decision to grant a tomos concerning autocephaly to the Ukrainian church, Religiia v Ukraine reports with a reference to and Credo.Press.


"Once again I emphasize, an autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine will not be a state church. The state guarantees the constitutional right of freedom of religious confession. Including that it guarantees whoever wants to remain in unity with the Russian church. And as president I am the guarantor of the constitutional rights and liberties of citizens and I also guarantee this," the head of state emphasized at the Forum on Local Government.


At the same time, Petro Poroshenko noted that the "Moscow patriarchate will not dictate conditions and set down who of us is canonical and who is without grace." "Believers themselves will choose which church they go to and nobody will have the power to force anybody. I emphasize that we will not let the Kremlin inflame inter-religious conflict," Petro Poroshenko promised.


The president appealed to the forum participants: "Here much depends not only on government and not only on special services, but also on bodies of local administration, on your ability to clarify the situation and to conduct substantive dialogue in public."


"This is very important. And therefore I appeal to you with a request to ensure this process. Do not let anybody from the Moscow cohort provoke. And do not allow any violence," he summed up.


In addition, on 8 December in Lvov, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Prosvita society, Petro Poroshenko stated that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has received threats from Moscow because of the decision to grant a tomos concerning the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church.


Poroshenko said that both the government and he, as president, "have done our job" for granting the tomos to the Ukrainian church. The president added that Patriarch Bartholomew also has done his job. "Perhaps even more than he could, considering the insane pressure and threats that today are coming to him from Moscow," the president emphasized.


He also recalled that after the Synod of the ecumenical patriarchate made the decision for granting autocephaly to the Ukraine church, in Russia the security council of the Russian Federal immediately was summoned, with one item—"the threat to the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine." (tr. by PDS, posted 12 December 2018)

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