Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Russia Loses the War of the Churches (35)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

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Russian propaganda campaign continues, this is possibly the area they are most active in at this time, and why is explained by Sokolov in his essay. Russian Orthodox proxies vilify a Ukrainian bishop who defects to Constantinople, labelling him a traitor, and labelling Constantinople as “the schismatics”.

The most interesting development is that of the ROC bishops in Kyiv quietly inviting Pres Poroshenko to meet next week. Greece denies visas to Russian clerics, Ukraine denies entry to Russian clerics. Good analysis by Weigel – the fusion of church and state in Russia is increasingly the subject of analysis and debate in religious studies and media circles. The propaganda smokescreen has not obscured Russia’s heresy from insightful observers.

Finnish Orthodox Church Denies Claims on Support for Ukrainian Church’s Autonomy – Sputnik International

HELSINKI (Sputnik) – The Finnish Orthodox Church has not made any official statements on its position with regard to the autocephaly of the Orthodox church in Ukraine, the Finnish Orthodox Church spokesman told Sputnik on Thursday, thus refuting Kiev’s claims that the Finnish church had allegedly supported the Ukrainian church’s independence.

‘Go home!’ Ukrainian President Poroshenko calls for Russian Orthodox Church to be purged — RT World News

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate, telling it to “go home” in fiery comments, which the Church dismissed as “absurd” and unconstitutional.

Ukraine-Russia Tensions Rise in Church Row – Consortiumnews

With an apparent nod from the U.S., the Ecumenical Patriarch’s ruling from Istanbul severed 1000-year ties between Moscow and the Orthodox church in Ukraine, raising further tensions between Kiev and Moscow, as Dmitry Babich reports.

Suspected Orthodox Church Arsonist Detained in Moscow

A 35-year-old suspect has been detained for allegedly setting fire to an Orthodox church in Moscow in the third such incident since August. Authorities opened a criminal investigation into damage of property after the wooden St. John the Apostle Church burned down in northwestern Moscow late on Tuesday. A local activist who had opposed the construction of the church was reportedly questioned by police immediately after the incident. He was cited by media as saying that he was “absolutely not involved.”

Church of Moscow Patriarchate reportedly asks Poroshenko to meet (Document) | UNIAN

Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) plan to hold a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on November 13. The announcement says the meeting will take place in the event hall of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery at 14:00 Kyiv time on November 13. Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) plan to hold a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on November 13. Metropolitan of the UOC-MP Oleksandr (Drabinko) confirmed this information to the Ukrayinska Pravda online newspaper, referring to the Kyiv Metropolitan’s office. The announcement says the meeting will take place in the event hall of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra at 14:00 Kyiv time on Tuesday, November 13. “The participation of all diocesan and vicar bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is obligatory,” the announcement said. At the same time, Metropolitan Oleksandr did not confirm whether Metropolitan Onufriy [head of the UOC-MP] was going to attend the meeting. The Kyiv Metropolitan’s office has declined to comment on the information. The journalists turned to the presidential administration’s press service for a comment. The department has not yet officially confirmed or denied the meeting. The information is being verified.As UNIAN reported earlier, on October 11, following a meeting of the Synod, a decision was announced, stating that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceeds to granting autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine. In addition, the legal binding of the Synod’s letter of 1686 was abolished, thus taking the Kyiv Metropolis from under Moscow’s canonical jurisdiction. Also, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) Filaret and head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) Makariy were reinstated in their canonical status. On October 12, the UOC-KP urged the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to prepare for a special unification council.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: Putin’s ‘Russian World’ Rapidly Contracting in Ukraine and Elsewhere, Sokolov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 8 – The reason that the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate are so alarmed by the prospect of an independent autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church is that it undercuts Vladimir Putin’s drive to rewrite Russian history “from official imperial positions” and calls attention to the rapid disintegration of his “’Russian world,’” Boris Sokolov says. In recent weeks, the Russian historian continues, Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill have become ever more hyperbolic in the expression of their fears about the meaning of Ukrainian autocephaly, lashing out not only at the Ukrainians but at the Universal Patriarch and his supposed work as an agent for the Americans. In an important article in Kyiv’s Den’ newspaper, Sokolov makes it clear that this alarm in Moscow reflects not any concern about religious faith – the Moscow Patriarchate is ever more obvioiusly a state agency – but about the falling apart and contraction of the Russian sphere of influence in the region ( And that in turn means, although Sokolov does not make this point explicitly, that while neither Putin nor Kirill is prepared to go to war for the faith, both may be more than willing to do so in the name of preserving that rapidly dying “’Russian world.’” Three other developments reported this week only underscore that conclusion. First and in an indication that Moscow secular and religious is losing out in the religious struggle in Ukraine, Metropolitan Aleksandr has left the Moscow church in Ukraine and declared his affiliation to the Universal Patriarch, the first such Moscow hierarch there to do so. Not surprisingly, he is being called “the first traitor” by Russian nationalist and Orthodox outlets – see, for example, But he is unlikely to be the last, and Aleksandr’s decision to the extent that it isn’t an effort by Moscow to penetrate Ukrainian institutions is likely to be the harbinger of others. It is also a reminder that for many Orthodox leaders and faithful in Ukraine (as is the case elsewhere), their religion is more important to them than Putin’s politics. They don’t want to continue to be misused. And that too ensures that the process of autocephaly in Ukraine – and thus ever more solid Ukrainian independence politically as well – is going to proceed. Second, has published the latest figures showing the declining number of people outside of the Russian Federation who know and use the Russian language. Given that Putin has made the Russian language the second most important aspect of Russian identity – the first is loyalty to the Kremlin – that is not a good sign for his Russian world either ( And third, in an indication of one of the ways Moscow hopes to respond, the Moscow Human Rights Bureau has declared that ever more Russians abroad are suffering from discrimination and that “Russophobia is one of the forms of racism” ( By making that argument or more precisely by having a human rights group do so, the Kremlin clearly hopes to be able to mobilize those opposed to racism in all its horrific forms to speak out against any actions it deems discriminatory against ethnic Russians and Russian speakers abroad and thus amplify Moscow’s moves in defense of Putin’s “Russian world.” And this effort has a collateral benefit as far as the Kremlin is concerned. It distracts attention from the fact that Putin’s Russia is ever more frequently discriminating against non-Russians at home, limiting the use of the native languages of more than a quarter of the population and the powers of those federal instituitons that ostensibly were supposed to protect the of these nations.

First traitor – UOC Metropolitan Alexander (Drabinko) joined the schismatics / Взгляд

The Metropolitan declared himself a cleric of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, with whom the Russian Orthodox Church and the UOC broke the Eucharistic communion. Who is he – “witness of Tomos”, the first of the bishops of the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate, who openly betrayed the Church?He is 41 years old, born in Rivne region. He graduated from the Moscow Theological Seminary and Kiev Theological Academy. In the UOC, he made a stellar career thanks to a strange attachment to him (they say, akin) to the late Metropolitan of Kiev Vladimir (Sabodan). He made the student Sasha his referent, and later – his personal secretary, an influential figure. In the rank of bishop Drabinko was ordained at a very young age – 30 years old. It is worth noting that there is an age limit – the minimum age for consecration to bishops according to Nomocanon (law-rule) is 35 years, in exceptional cases – 25. But ordination did not precede any exceptional circumstances; doubtful reasons, not solid.

Boris Sokolov | Putin and the disintegrating “Russian world” It is in Russia that history is now actively rewritten from official imperial positions. | Газета «День»

Speaking at the plenary meeting of the World Russian People’s Council, Vladimir Putin asked the question: “What will the world be like in the future, in the coming decades. Will it be a world of monologue, or the so-called kulak law, the right of strong or dialogue and mutual respect? ”And so it answers:“ I have no doubt for sure: the voice of Russia in the world of the future will sound decently and confidently ”. The answer itself is exposing, proving that the Russian president believes only in the right of the strong and prefers to solve world problems not with dialogue, but with his fist, although Russian propaganda, of course, claims the opposite. True, the following phrase tries to drown this self-exposure in customary demagogy: “This is predetermined by our tradition, and our inner spiritual culture, self-awareness, and, finally, the very history of our country as an original civilization, unique, but not claiming self-confidently and boorishly exclusive” . After listening to the speeches of Lavrov, Nebenzya, and Putin himself, who elegantly joked over Nebenzya, having suggested that he change his name to Benzi for the sake of a “positive agenda”, you understand that Russian civilization is rude. As well as honoring the authorities. I would try the same Nebenzya to offer Putin to change his last name to Rasputin, as best reflecting the historical crossroads on which Russia stands! And Vladimir Vladimirovich again advocated a multipolar world, forgetting that it was just such a world that led to two world wars. A day earlier, speaking at the VI World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad, Putin attacked Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarch, without naming the latter by name. He stated: “Russophobia, unfortunately, other forms of extreme, aggressive nationalism are also taking place. In Ukraine, which is no secret, in the Baltic countries, in a number of other countries history is being rewritten, there is a struggle with monuments, with the Russian language. People are intimidated and simply terrorized. The natural desire of each person to preserve their national roots is declared a crime, separatism … Today, I cannot fail to say about the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church, our other traditional denominations – Islam, Judaism, Buddhism … Unfortunately, now they are trying to break these bonds in one way or another, break these bonds, pull them apart in “national apartments”. I want to emphasize one thing: politicking in such a sensitive area has always turned into the hardest consequences, and above all for those who do it. Our common duty is, first of all, to the people, to do everything to preserve the spiritual and historical unity. ”

“In vain you wrote that you are a priest”: why ministers of the Russian Orthodox Church are denied visas to Greece – BBC News Русская служба

Several priests of the Russian Orthodox Church complained about problems with obtaining Schengen visas through the consulate of Greece. As the BBC found out, this is due to the conflict between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Constantinople because of the possible autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church – the creation of an independent Orthodox church in Ukraine. The fact that the priests of the ROC have problems with obtaining Greek visas, it became known this week.Vasily Biksey, senior priest of the Church of Sergius of Radonezh in Moscow, told RIA Novosti and RBC that he wanted to go to Athos with his family, but he was denied a Schengen visa with the phrase “there is no justification for staying in Greece”. “We bought a tour, paid for the tickets, booked a hotel. My mother (wife) and six children were given a visa, but I don’t. I filed twice. Both times – refusal. The last time was a week and a half ago,” said Biksi Bee. bbcIn late July, another Moscow priest, deputy head of the church department for charity and social service, Alexander Aleshin, was denied a visa. He told the BBC that he had already been to Greece many times and had never received a visa refusal. According to Aleshin, he heard from other priests that Russian clergymen could be denied a visa to Athos, so he was going to go “to other shrines” with his mother.”My mother and I bought vouchers in July, paid for the hotel and tickets. I honestly indicated in the application form that I was an employee of the synodal department, provided an income statement. My mother was given a visa, but I was refused in late July. I am amazed at such discrimination,” a priest.Krasnodar priest Vasily Pliska told RBC that he requested a visa from the Greek consulate for multiple entries, but received a short-term visa for 45 days. Pliska told the BBC that he wanted to go to Athos. “This decision of the Greek government was given earlier by 2-3 years, and now it was given for 45 days. This is not an isolated case, they give it to all priests,” said BBC Plisk.

Rector of Moscow Theological Academy refused entry to Ukraine – 08.11.2018 12:52 — Ukrinform News

Ukraine's State Border Guard Service (SBGS) has refused entry to Ukraine for Rector of the Moscow Theological Academy Vereysky Amvrosy. SBGS spokesman Oleh Slobodian confirmed the report in a comment to Ukrinform on Thursday. “Yes, this information is true. Such a fact was recorded yesterday. First, border guards fulfilled the order of a law enforcement agency regarding this Russian citizen, in order not to let him to Ukraine. Second, this citizen could not confirm the purpose of his trip,” Slobodian said. Earlier, the Moscow Theological Academy reported on its website that Ambrose had been denied entry to Ukraine at Kyiv’s Zhuliany Airport.

Priest with fake Bulgarian passport detained in Ukrainian airport | UNIAN

Ukrainian border guards detained at the Boryspil Airport near Kyiv a priest who had a forged Bulgarian travel document, the State Border Guard Service reported Thursday. The cleric, who is a Ukrainian national, also appeared to be a holder of a valid Russian passport, the authorities say.

George Weigel | Shifting Tectonic Plates in Eastern Christianity – Ethics & Public Policy Center

ROME. While Synod-2018 was trying to grasp the polyhedron-like character of “synodality” and wrestling with the differences among sexual inclination, sexual orientation, and sexual attraction, tectonic plates were shifting beneath the surface of world Christianity. Like similar shifts in geology, which can produce tsunamis and earthquakes, dramatic movement in the underlying structures of ecclesiastical life can lead to great historical consequences. The recent decision by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to grant autocephaly to a unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church—which would mean that church’s independence from the Russian Orthodox Moscow patriarchate—is precisely such a dramatic, tectonic shift, perhaps the greatest in Eastern Christianity since Constantinople and Rome formally severed full communion in 1054. This is, then, a Very Big Deal. That it got virtually no attention during Synod-2018, either inside the Synod hall or in the Synod’s “Off-Broadway” conversations, says something (not altogether edifying) about the self-absorption of Catholicism as it continues its seemingly endless wrestling with the ethics of human love, the exercise of authority in the Church, and a raft of sexual and financial scandals. But one Synod father was paying close attention to what was afoot 2,300 kilometers northeast of here, and that was the ever-more-impressive Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches that are Byzantine in liturgy and polity but in full communion with Rome. Many commentators, including your scribe, have viewed what may be the impending independence of Ukrainian Orthodoxy in terms of its potential to derail Vladimir Putin’s attempts to recreate a simulacrum of the old Soviet Union in the name of a historic “Russian space” (Russkie mir). Others, your scribe again included, have speculated on what Ukrainian Orthodox autocephaly would mean for ecumenical relations. Vatican ecumenists have bet most if not all their chips on Russian Orthodoxy as the “lead Church” in Eastern Christianity. That position will become even more untenable if Russian Orthodoxy loses a considerable proportion of its parishes and congregants to an independent Ukrainian Orthodoxy recognized as such by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, first among equals in the Orthodox world. It was Major-Archbishop Shevchuk, however, who put all this in its most appropriate context when, during the Synod, he gave an interview to my friends John Allen and Ines San Martin of Crux. There, he described any impending Ukrainian Orthodoxy autocephaly as a matter of a people reclaiming its spiritual and historical heritage, which had been hijacked for centuries by Muscovite claims to be the sole heir of that legacy. What was happening, the major-archbishop said, was the exercise of a people’s right to “have its own interpretation of its religious past, present, and future … the right to have its own voice.” Shevchuk also foresaw major ecumenical implications, as a reunited Ukrainian Orthodoxy might enter into a more fruitful, if challenging, dialogue with both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the center of the Catholic Church’s unity in Rome. As the major-archbishop put it, a realized autocephaly for Ukrainian Orthodoxy would “mark a new period in the history of the Universal Church. I don’t believe it will be an easy period, but definitely interesting and also an impulse of the Holy Spirit.” Major-Archbishop Shevchuk was appropriately concerned about Moscow’s immediate response to an independent Ukrainian Orthodoxy, for Russian Orthodoxy “thinks in geopolitical categories” and speaks “the language of threats, blackmail, and … ultimatums.” That is simply realism, given the vitriol that has recently poured out of the Patriarchate of Moscow, which has broken communion with Constantinople, refuses to pray for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in its liturgy, and blames the move toward Ukrainian autocephaly on the White House, the Vatican, the Greek Catholics of Ukraine, and other bogeymen. I do wonder, though, whether the major-archbishop might not agree that, in the long view, Ukrainian autocephaly will be good for Russian Orthodoxy. Why? Because it could help liberate that Church from its historic role of chaplain to the czar-of-the-day. Because such a liberation might encourage a recovery of the vast spiritual riches of Russian Orthodox piety and theology, now being suffocated by political games and power plays. And because it might, over time, accelerate what we should all be praying and working for: the genuine reconversion of Russia, which could be a spiritual powerhouse but won’t be, so long as the Gospel is mortgaged to state power. George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.