Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.
The Russian propaganda campaign in the religious domain continues. The firebomb attack in Kyiv is being blamed on Ukrainian church autonomy, while Jehovah’s Witness’ homes are being raided by the FSB in Crimea, ostensibly to find “the Ukrainian trace in the recent mass shooting in Kerch”.
Yurash predicts that most followers of the Russian church in Ukraine will defect to the new national church, but predicts up to 19% will remain in the Russian church, this being consistent with demographic data suggesting around 17% of the populace being of Russian ethnicity.
The matter of the monastery fraudulently transferred to the Russian church has resulted in a criminal investigation.
Paul Goble Staunton, November 15 – The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate will remain in existence after Ukraine forms its own autocephalous national church, but the Russian church will be “marginalized, reduced in size and cease to be influential in the Orthodox world,” according to Andrey Yurash, a specialist on the politics of religion at Lviv University. Organizationally, he says, “the UOC MP will gradually split apart, with all the more active bishops and priests leaving it because they share the ideology of Ukrainian Orthodoxy.” Some have already signaled their intentions (enovosty.com/news_politics/full/1511-chto-budet-s-upc-mp-posle-polucheniya-ukrainoj-tomosa-religioved-dal-prognoz). “I am convinced,” Yurash continues, “that there are several dozen hierarchs who under the circumstances will be ready to join the majority of their priesthood to the movement toward autocephaly.” That will change the face of religious life in Ukraine far more quickly than many now assume. At the same time, however, he says that the UOC MP “as a structure in unity with the Moscow Patriarchatee will be preserved.” No one should have any doubts about that as 14 to 19 percent of the Ukrainian population remains “conscious supporters of the Moscow jurisdiction” and they will be given all the necessary conditions to continue to follow its lead. But with time, that church “will be marginalized, reduced in side and not occupy the niche it does now of the most numerous and influential single canonical structure in the Orthodox milieu. All elements of its identity with the creation of a national church will be destroyed. [And] it will lose the independent organic unity” it has had for the las 25 years.
The Ukrainian Culture Ministry has challenged at the Justice Ministry the actions of a state registrar with the demand to cancel the decision on the state registration of the right of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to use the property of the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra monastery and to bring the registrar to account, the press service of the Ternopil regional prosecutor’s office reported on Friday. “According to the materials of the pre-trial investigation, it was established that a representative of the Ukrainian Culture Ministry, whose rights and interests were violated, had challenged at the Ukrainian Justice Ministry the mentioned actions of the state registrar with the demand to cancel the decision on the state registration of the right to use immovable property of the Pochayiv Lavra and to bring the registrar to account,” reads the report. The prosecutor’s office also recalled that the investigation department of the National Police’s main directorate in Ternopil region was conducting a pre-trial investigation in a criminal proceeding regarding the unlawful actions of the state registrar who, abusing his powers, conducted the state registration of the right of the UOC-MP to use immovable property of the Pochayiv Lavra. “The pre-trial investigation is ongoing. Procedural controlled is being carried out by the regional prosecutor’s office, which controls the investigation process in this criminal proceeding,” the prosecutor’s office said. The regional prosecutor’s office told Ukrinform on Thursday, November 15, that the police in Ternopil region had opened a criminal case due to the transfer of the facilities of the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra monastery to use or rent by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The case was opened under Part 3 of Article 365-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (abuse of office by a person providing public services, which entailed grave consequences). It was reported in early November that the Pochayiv Lavra monastery in Ternopil region had been illegally transferred for use by the UOC-MP. In particular, Pochayiv City Council deputy Taras Palianytsia published the documents of the state registrar who in 2018 executed the decisions made by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych in 2003 and transferred six facilities of the Pochayiv Lavra monastery (cathedrals, a bell tower, monastic cells, a bishop’s house – a total of 7,000 square meters) for use by the UOC-MP until 2052. The deputy demonstrated an excerpt from the state register, according to which the Lavra’s buildings were registered for the UOC-MP until January 1, 2052, with the right of extension.
The Main Directorate of the National Police in Ternopil region conducts a pre-trial investigation in a criminal proceeding. It investigates the unlawful actions of the state registrar during the registration of the right of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate to use the Pochayiv Lavra immovable property. This was reported by the press service of the regional prosecutor’s office, which carries out procedural control of the investigation. “The pre-trial investigation established that the representative of Ukraine’s Culture Ministry, whose rights and interests were violated, appealed against actions of the state registrar to Justice Ministry. The applicant demanded to cancel the decision on the state registration of the right to use the immovable property of the Pochayiv Lavra and to hold the registrar accountable,” the prosecutor’s office informed. The pre-trial investigation is ongoing.
Some 52.8% of Ukrainians support the initiative to establish a local autocephalous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, according to a study conducted by the Drahomanov Sociological Center. Political expert Rostyslav Balaban presented the results of the study at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday, an Ukrinform correspondent reports. “According to our estimates, 52.8% support autocephaly, whereas 19.1% categorically do not support it. Some 19.6% are not interested in the religious theme and the issue of autocephaly, and 8.5% were undecided,” he said. According to the poll, 50.2% of Ukrainians support their country’s aspiration to join the European Union, he said. Some 41.5% of respondents back Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. The poll of the adult population of Ukraine was conducted by the Drahomanov Sociological Center from October 27 to November 4, 2018. A total of 1,800 respondents living in all regions of Ukraine (except for Crimea and occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions) were interviewed. The poll’s margin of error does not exceed 2.3%
Attack comes amid rising tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over Ukraine’s decision to create new national church, independent from Moscow
Unknown assailants firebombed a historic 18th century Orthodox church in Kyiv and attacked a priest early on November 15, a church spokesman said.
After the publication in Macedonian news agency Sloboden Pecat, many believers of Serbian Orthodox Church gave a sigh of relief supposing that the common sense prevailed
The Ukrainian Church’s drive to gain independent status (autocephaly) is a political move, pushed by President Petro Poroshenko who seeks to fix his crumbling popularity before the next election, historian Alexander Dvorkin says.
Paul Goble Staunton, November 14 – The Russian campaign against the Jehovah’s Witnesses grew out of Moscow’s crackdown against religious literature that began in 2009 and intensified after Russian courts banned the denomination in 2017 as “extremist.” But the two chief groups pursuing the Witnesses have very different agendas, Irina Kapitanova and Sergey Maksimov say. “If the siloviki see in the Jehovah’s Witnesses a totalitarian and destructive sect or an instrument of foreign intelligence services,” the two Newsru journalists say, “human rights activists refer to a possible ‘struggle with heresy’ in the interests of the Russian Orthodox Church, conspiracy thinking among the powers that be, or simply the pursuit of ‘anti-extremist’ statistics by law enforcement” (news.ru/obshestvo/za-chto-ubirayut-svidetelej/). Russian officials have responded to criticism of their crackdown by saying that they are not attacking religious beliefs but rather opposed to specific actions such as missionary activity, but in fact, Kapitanova and Maksimov say, they treat any religious activity by the Witnesses as being in violation of the law. Representatives of the opposition and human rights communities, the two continue, “frequently treat what is going on as the result of ‘an order’ by the Russian Orthodox Church to eliminate Christian denominations” in Russia which compete with its own. Pavel Chikov of the Agora Group is one of them. He notes that “the persecution of the Witnesses has a long tradition in Russia. They were actively repressed in Soviet times, and I suspect that in our time the cause of this is the coincidence of the goals of the authorities (persecution of those who think differently) and the Russian Orthodox Church (persecution of apostates).” Moreover, Chikov continues, Moscow has a well-developed strategy to use against the Witnesses, one developed in the course of its persecution of Hizb ut-Tahrir. But SOVA religious affairs expert Aleksandr Verkhovsky disagrees. He says that Moscow would have had more interest in going after the Seventh Day Adventists than the Witnesses if the decision as to which to persecute had been its alone. The former is as numerous and more of a threat. Moreover, Orthodox priests have generally picked up on the regime’s narrative about the Witnesses rather than coming up with one of their own. One priest, for example, has insisted that the Witnesses were “created by Western special services for expansion against Christianity and ‘the conduct of a hybrid war.’” That is certainly the same line as used by Russian law enforcement whose members point to the fact that the Jehovah’s Witnesses didn’t register with the state in the 1990s when they had the chance and often call on their members to avoid having anything to do with officials. And they argue that US AID is “the curator” for the Witnesses. Chikov points out that there is no evidence for such conspiracies, although they are widely promoted and believed. What accounts for the singling out of the Witnesses, he says, is that the government assumes that few will come to their defense after they are stigmatized in the media as sectarians. Verkhovsky for his part says that Moscow may have allowed things to go to far even for its own purpose. “The powers that be above hardly know what is being done with these 100,000 followers” of the Witnesses. And that matters because “each of them could be potentially charged with a crime.” But, he says Moscow must know that “it is impossible to have 100,000 cases” all at the same time.
Media reports in Russia says more than 30 houses belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses were searched by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers in the Moscow-annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea.
Serhiy Filatov, the head of the Syvash local regional group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been detained. Operatives are searching for the “Ukrainian trace” in the recent mass shooting in Kerch.