Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Russia Loses the War of the Churches (41)

Anonymous expert compilation, analysis, and reporting.

Recent Russian propaganda, state media fake news and disinformation is in a state of relative silence. I am calling it a strategic pause.  This, coupled with the slap in the face to Russia regarding the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, indicates Russia is contemplating a serious and unprecedented response.  I can’t help but come to a few conclusions, based only on gut feelings but you should see the line of reasoning. 

  • Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Belarus, will be the focus of upcoming Russian actions
  • Enclaves of the Russian Orthodox Church, and as many Ukrainian Orthodox Churches as Russia can be recruited and will serve as launching points for upcoming Russian actions
  • A campaign of information from the Russian Orthodox Church will be launched, outlining the despicable actions launched by Ukraine against the Russian Orthodox Church within Ukraine – this will be termed religious warfare by Russia
  • A reunification effort, reunifying the Russian Orthodox Church with lost members – provoked by Ukraine –  will be launched

A few conclusions can be made.

  • This type of action has only one precedent, the crusades.
  • Any inkling of separation of church and state in Russia will be lost. 
  • If combined with paramilitary or military actions, there are no laws on record regarding religious warfare. 
  • Without applicable laws, there will be no timely response. 
  • Like Crimea, we will be frozen in our response.
  • Russia can execute this campaign simultaneously across large areas of Ukraine or simply in one or two.
  • The preceding information campaign must be exceedingly well thought out, planned, wargamed, replanned as a result, orchestrated, supplied, and executed. 
    • Only this point appears to be somewhat of a reality.
    • There is a strategic pause in mass communications propaganda.
    • The Russian Orthodox Church is not bellicose in its response to the Ecumenical Orthodox Church’s order of autocephaly to the Ukraine Orthodox Church.  

Stranger things have happened. 

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Illiaronov at the Cato Institute reiterates what other experts have observed, that the autonomy of the Ukrainian church demolishes the mythological imperial “Russian World” construct, and that the Chekist regime will treat this as a threat akin to the loss of confidence in the Communist ideological construct that led to the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Empire in 1991, and resist by all means available. There is an apocryphal claim that Stalin once remarked that the CPSU and its ideological and propaganda bureaucracy served as a substitute for the ROC, to keep the masses of Russia placid and obedient.

The Independent produces a nice summary of the events of the last couple of weeks, interviewing a number of key players in Kyiv. It appears that the mass defection scenario is unfolding, and the more mischief the Russians produce, the faster things will unravel.

Polish Orthodox Church (a tiny minority church in deeply Catholic Poland) creates a spat with the Kyiv church.

Also some Russian reports of interest and a likely Sputnik propaganda play.

Window on Eurasia — New Series: For Putin, Ukrainian Autocephaly is for Russia a New 1991 and Something He Won’t Tolerate, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble Staunton, November 17 – Vladimir Putin views autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox as having an equally fateful and negative impact on Russia as the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Andrey Illarionov says. The Kremlin leader will never forgive Kyiv for this and will do all he can to block it. During a conversation with Ukraine’s Glavred news agency, the former Putin advisor and current senior fellow at Washington’s Cato Institute says that the Kremlin is truly alarmed about Ukrainian autocephaly ( Since 2014, he argues, Ukraine has done nothing as important as its pursuit of autocephaly except for military resistance. Gaining that independent status for the church shores up the country’s political independence and weakens “the imperial position” of the Moscow church, pointing to its eventual exit from Ukraine and ultimately from Belarus as well. According to Illarionov, “Putin recognizes the seriousness of the situation in the religious sphere and thus is already preparing for Ukraine a decisive response to the actions of the Ukrainian Orthodox church.” That is because the Kremlin leader knows that if he loses on this, he loses far more than he can and still have his current agenda survive. “By its importance,” the autocephaly of the Ukrainian church “is comparable to the disintegrations of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.” After both those events, “the political disintegration of the empire began in the religious sphere. Putin understands this very well and therefore doesn’t intend to surrender his positions.” If the Kremlin leader can’t stop autocephaly – and it certainly appears that that train has left the station, Illarionov says – he will certainly seek “’to punish’ Ukraine for its acquisition” out of his own self-regard and because such punishment will serve as a warning to others not to try anything similar. What Putin will try will depend, however, not only on the mechanisms at his command but also on the reaction of Ukraine, other post-Soviet states and the West where unfortunately many do yet not understand that Moscow’s loss of an imperial church just like its earlier loss of an imperial communist party prefigures much broader losses in other sectors as well. Consequently, Putin’s response almost certainly will be far more negative than most in the West now imagine, including the possibility of a major military move. In the mind of the Kremlin ruler, that despite all the negative consequences it would entail may pose fewer negatives than doing nothing and watching his imperial dreams dissolve.

Putin’s ex-adviser comments on Russia’s possible reaction to Ukraine church independence | UNIAN

Andrei Illarionov, a Russian economist, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and a former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is convinced that the autocephaly, that is, canonical independence, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in Russian perception is equivalent to the collapse of the Soviet Union, therefore the Kremlin will attempt to retain its influence in the religion field until the last. “The Kremlin takes these processes very painfully. Perhaps, nothing that Ukraine has been doing for the last four years has been as effective (with the exception of direct military resistance) for ensuring the state independence of Ukraine and for destroying the imperial positions of the Russian Orthodox Church, for its inevitable withdrawal from Ukraine and its potential withdrawal (not today, not tomorrow, but in the foreseeable future) from Belarus,” Illarionov said during a chat with the audience of the Glavred news outlet. According to Illarionov, Putin is aware of the seriousness of the confessional situation, therefore he is already preparing for Ukraine a decisive response to the UOC activities. “By its significance, this event is comparable to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. Following the previous (1917) and latter (1991) stages of political disintegration of the imperial space, the empire is now starting to disintegrate in the confessional sphere. Putin is well aware of this and therefore he does not intend to step back. And, obviously, he is preparing a response to Ukraine to either prevent autocephaly (it seems to be too late though), or somehow “punish” Ukraine for achieving it,” the expert concluded. As reported earlier, according to ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian church could have received the tomos on autocephaly 10 years ago, but Moscow had prevented this from happening.

Oliver Carroll | Russian-backed Orthodox church faces pressure from Kiev and splits within | The Independent

President Petro Poroshenko says the Russian Orthodox Church has become a willing extension of Kremlin power. Up on the newly whitened hills of Kiev’s Pechersk Lavra Monastery, life goes back a century or nine. Bearded, black-frocked men scurry across the grounds, gliding between the dozens of temples and administrative buildings. A skittish visitor stops one of the monks in his tracks, and rolls up his sleeve to reveal an arm covered in crusty lesions. He is shepherded to the monastery’s medical centre. The Pechersk monastery gets its name from the peshchery, or the cave temples hollowed into the hills below. These contain scriptures, icons, and the relics of over a hundred saints, and are considered to be the spiritual center-piece of eastern Orthodoxy. They survived Nazi occupation and various periods of Soviet persecution, including a time when the holy underground was turned into a museum of atheism. ………… Archbishop Kliment told The Independent that the Russian-backed Church was “open to dialogue,” but had rejected a meeting that had “no format or aim other than the acquisition of church property.” Ukrainian presidential advisor Rostislav Pavlenko told The Independent that the suggestion that the government was about to seize church property was “nuts.” Kiev was intent to proceed with “consent and compromise,” he insisted. The fate of temples would be decided by the parishioners themselves: parishes can choose to alternate services between dominations, or, if there was no agreement, authorities would simply close the temple. “This has already happened in a village in the west of Ukraine,” he said. “The police closed the church there because the people couldn’t come to an agreement, and so now both of them pray in the yard.” For Drabinko, the logic of Moscow’s break with Constantinople means more and more parishes will decide to move to the new, unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The new Church would eventually host 90 percent of the congregations that previously took their cue from Moscow, he confidently predicts – “perhaps, even, the Lavra itself.”

A well-known name of Metropolitan of the UOC MP, which will come to the unity Council – 24 Channel | The Koz Telegram

Metropolitan of Cherkasy and Kaniv of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate Sofronii (Dmitruk) admits that he is a supporter of the creation of the Autocephalous Church in Ukraine. He said that will come to the unity Council, which is to announce the creation of a single Orthodox Church to elect its Primate. This priest said in an interview with BBC Ukraine. I have this position I am the Cathedral will go, but not to shout: “Hurrah, it’s done”, and to watch. I’ll go as an observer in order to decide how best to proceed to be good for our people. Imagine. We (UOC-MP) there are monasteries and parishes – many 12 thousand. And that of these 12 thousand will go to the new Church, the rest will remain. And these transitions will occur with great difficulty, perhaps not without blood. But it’s all very simple can be solved, without any schisms, – said the Metropolitan. According to him, if all the bishops of the UOC-MP has decided to move to a Single local Church, then the “no split would not exist.” He said that all the supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate also went to the priests, and parishes and monasteries would belong to the Autocephalous Church. Metropolitan Sofrony added that he would like to all the bishops of the UOC-MP was present at the unity Cathedral, but knows that many bishops will not come. “I would like to see more. Tell the reason: in my opinion, if the Primate of the new Church will choose by vote, then – if we want it to be a legitimate Church in the full sense of the word, it is necessary that its head was from the canonical Church. And that Primate was on it, then it is necessary that the Church (its members) was the majority,” he said. The Metropolitan stressed that he is not afraid of punishment for coming to the Cathedral, because participation in it is not a canonical violation. The priest admits that Unification Council can come much more than the three hierarchs of the UOC-MP, which was in the “Ukrainian house”. Known (the supporters of the autocephaly of the UOC-MP, – 24 channel) two I and Alexander (Metropolitan of Pereiaslav and Vishnevsky Alexander (drabinko). Then there was Simeon. Maybe there are six or twenty – who they are, who knows. This is how the Parliament performs three-four-five people, and vote all. Similarly, well-known may be a few people, and then others can change their attitudes and their actions – he concluded. We will remind, the former press Secretary of the Primate of the UOC-MP, and now the project leader of the open Orthodox University of Saint Sophia, and Archpriest Georgy Kovalenko said that on 22 November will take place the Unification Council, which is scheduled to announce the creation of a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church to elect its Primate. According to the head of the UOC-KP Filaret, the Cathedral may be held in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev.

His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy [Moscow Patriarchate] claimed that church can’t be a political organization –

Church can’t be a political organization. His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufriy claimed this on the air of Inter TV channel. ‘A church cannot be a political organization. Perhaps, it’s fashionable and we would probably be applauded today if we became like this, we would be in the service not of saving the human soul, but in the service of the political system … But we will answer the God, and also history will judge us,’ Onufriy claimed. Reportedly, the Russian Orthodox Church decided to completely cease the Eucharistic relations with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Onufriy (Berezovsky) – Wikipedia


Polish Orthodox Church bans all contacts with Ukrainian schismatics | KyivPost

WARSAW – The Polish Orthodox Church’s Bishops’ Council has declined recognizing the Constantinople Patriarchate’s decision to resume the Eucharistic communication with Ukrainian “non-canonical churches”, the Polish Orthodox Church said on its website on Nov. 16. “The Holy Bishops’ Council bans priests of the Polish Orthodox Church from having liturgical and prayer contacts with the ‘clergy’ of the so-called Kyiv Patriarchate and the so-called ‘autocephalic Orthodox church,’ which have done much evil in the past,” the Bishops’ Council said in a statement. They say, this decision is caused by the fact that several dioceses and a monastery in Poland, which were set up by “head of the self-proclaimed Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret’s supporters without any authorization and which the Polish Orthodox Church has not recognized before and now is not going to engage in fraternal communication with them only because of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s decisions.” Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church have earlier said that they refused to recognize the rehabilitation of the leaders of Ukrainian church schism.

The UOC-KP responded to the ban by the Polish Church to contact with the Ukrainian priests | The Sivertelegram

The decision of the Polish Orthodox Church banning their priests to enter into liturgically prayer contacts with representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, which supposedly in the past “committed a lot of evil”, there is a pattern of casuistry В УПЦ КП відповіли на заборону польської Церкви контактувати з українськими священиками This was stated press Secretary of the Kyiv Patriarchate Archbishop yevstratiy Zorya “The point about the prohibition to enter into liturgically prayer spiritual contacts with the so-called Kiev Patriarchate, and the so-called Autocephalous Churches, “who in the past committed a lot of evil” is just a sample of casuistry! That is, we are talking about all the clergy of the two Churches or only those which, in the opinion of the Polish Church “has committed many evil”? Who and what determines the measure of a perfect evil was a lot or a little? Or refers to the Church, who “committed a lot of evil”?”, he said. The priest stressed that after the Unification Council, which shall announce the establishment of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church, there would be no the UOC-KP or the UAOC, and will be one Church. Therefore, even if the decision refers to both the Church and not just a specific clergy who in the opinion of the bishops PAPS “made a lot of evil”, and this interpretation will lose relevance after Thomas! And a Polish Cathedral may not be taken into account, – said the speaker of the UOC-KP.

Over half of Ukrainians support autocephaly of Orthodox Church – poll – 16.11.2018 16:45 — Ukrinform News

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.&nbsp;

Kyiv Patriarchate refutes media reports on holding unification council on Nov 22 | UNIAN

Press secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) has refuted media reports on holding a unification council on November 22. Only the official announcement on the date of the council will mean it has already been determined, Yevstratiy said. Press secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya) has refuted media reports on holding a unification council on November 22

Ukrainian Orthodox Church denies appointment of bishops’ council on November 22 –

Speaker of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, Archbishop Eustraty claimed that the information on the appointment of the bishops’ council on November 22 is false. He claimed this on Facebook. ‘I officially state: the information disseminated in the announcement does not correspond to reality. Again, I have to repeat: only the official report on the date of the Council will mean that it has already been determined,’ the speaker claimed. Earlier, Archpriest Heorhiy Kovalenko, former press secretary of the leader of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate claimed that the bishops’ council may be held on November 22. On October 11, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate supported that the autocephaly provision for Ukraine is prolonged. Also, it has officially approved Constantinople as Ukraine’s mother-church. Besides, the Synod lifted the anathema from Filaret, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate, and Makariy, the Primate of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Filaret stated that a united Jubilee Bishops’ Council would take place soon to create a unified Ukrainian local church.

Attackers target church in Ukraine amid religious split | Religion |

MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian Orthodox Church says unknown attackers hurled Molotov cocktails at the landmark St. Andrew’s Church in the capital Kiev and assaulted a priest. The attack followed a move by the Patriarch of Constantinople to pave the way for the independence of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine from the Russian branch of the church. Ukrainian Orthodox Church spokesman Evstratiy Zorya said Thursday that unknown men threw Molotov cocktails at the church in the morning and attacked a priest with pepper spray. The imminent creation of the new Ukrainian church has raised concerns of violence between backers and opponents of the church split. Ukraine last week turned over St. Andrew’s Church for permanent use by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople whose leader is regarded as “first among equals” for Orthodox Christians.

RT: New Great Schism? Russian Orthodox Church breaks ties with Constantinople over Ukraine autocephaly – YouTube

RT Published on Nov 15, 2018 In the biggest rift in modern Orthodox history, the Russian Orthodox Church has cut all ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate, after it accepted a breakaway division of Ukrainian Orthodox Church as independent.

Bulgaria Considers Controversial Restrictions on Church Ac…… | News & Reporting | Christianity Today

New amendments could halt training, foreign funding, and missionary outreach by evangelicals.

The Greek Orthodox Church faces a battle over secularisation – Greece

THERESA MAY is not the only public figure in Europe who is making a rearguard defence of a “historic” agreement about an ultra-sensitive matter that was struck behind closed doors and may not survive open debate among the interested parties.

Bishops Of Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church Summoned To SBU for Talks – Chief Lawyer – UrduPoint [SPUTNIK]

Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the only canonical Orthodox church in the country, are summoned “for talks” to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), head of the UOC-MP legal department, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, said. KIEV (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 17th November, 2018) Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the only canonical Orthodox church in the country, are summoned “for talks” to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), head of the UOC-MP legal department, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, said. “As it became known, the SBU began inviting some bishops of the UOC ‘for talks’ or ‘for conversations.’ After the recent events around the UOC, this is quite expected, even indicative, but I want to note that the procedural law does not contain such a form of communication as ‘talk’ or ‘conversation.’ Therefore, dear our bishops and priests, I doubt that they will talk with you about God,” Bakhov said on Facebook. Kiev authorities are working to establish a single local autocephalous (independent) church in the country based on the non-canonical Ukrainian orthodox churches. In mid-September, two exarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople started working in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), which came as part of Constantinople’s preparations to grant autocephaly to the UOC-KP. The initiative has been strongly criticized by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). The ROC, in turn, has gone on to sever diplomatic ties with Constantinople. The ROC Holy Synod, the UOC-MP Holy Synod and the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) have also decided to suspend services with the hierarchs of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. At the same time, the Moscow Patriarchate has noted that none of the local churches supported the Ukrainian autocephaly project. Father Superior of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra Metropolitan Pavel and other ROC and UOC-MP bishops and priests have earlier repeatedly said that Ukrainian nationalists had threatened to seize monasteries and churches belonging to the UOC-MP, and that Constantinople’s decision might fuel the nationalists’ efforts.

Putin’s good friend invests in airport upgrade on Orthodox church island | The Independent Barents Observer

Flying to Solovki in the White Sea will be far more comfortable as business tycoon Gennady Timchenko invests 2,6 billion rubles in local infrastructure. The planners originally wanted to extend the local airfield from today’s 1,500 meters to 2,000 meters. That would allow for bigger aircrafts to land in the remote and picturesque island. However, Patriarch Kirill reportedly halted the plans. It could lead to an overwhelming increase in tourists to site, he feared. The Solovki islands in the White Sea is a major stronghold of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarch himself is a regular visitor. His latest visit was in August this year. Then, a big group of political and economic bigshots accompanied the church leader. Among them were leader of the Northwest Russian Federal District Aleksandr Beglov, Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov and leader of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Mikhail Fradkov, the Church informs. It is company Stroytransgaz that will engage in the upgrade, BBC Russia reports. And the sum to be invested is 2,6 billion rubles (€34.6 million). According to the broadcaster, the company is also involved in similar infrastructure upgrades in Valaam, the other major church island in the Russian north. Stroytransgaz is owned by Gennady Timchenko, the businessman who is considered a close friend of President Vladimir Putin. The upgrades in Solovki include a new hard cover on the airfield, as well as a full reconstruction of the local air terminal building, new storage houses, new taxi strips and airport ramps. Also electricity and light systems will be fully renovated, BBC informs.

Solovetsky Monastery – Wikipedia

Solovetsky Islands – Wikipedia

Evictions, trials as Russian Church claims property | Russia | Al Jazeera

With the resurgence of a Kremlin-endorsed monastery, islanders on Valaam have endured trials, evictions and arson. Valaam, Russia – Varvara Sergeeva’s great-grandfather was among the tens of thousands of clerics, monks, nuns and believers executed by Communist iconoclasts in 1937. Pavel Orleansky had served as a deacon in the revered Orthodox Christian monastery on Valaam, the lake island just south of Finland. Sergeeva learned about his fate from declassified KGB archives in 1988, when during the Perestroika reforms the USSR celebrated a millennium of Christianity in Russia. Soon after graduating from high school, Sergeeva decided to get baptised and leave her native St Petersburg for Valaam to help revive the monastery. “I felt absolute happiness. What was happening was unreal,” says the stately, fair-haired 44-year-old at a cafe in St Petersburg. “It’s a wonderful place, very pure, very vivid.” But in the past decade, Sergeeva and her son have faced a forced eviction from their Valaam apartment, an arson, confiscation of property, a string of lost trials and debilitating health problems, all as a result of the resurgence of the monastery and the Orthodox faith in Russia, and the Kremlin-backed restitution of religious property.