“ZIK” TV channel in Lviv: We must get done with the UOC the way it was done with Communists

Fight against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Ukrainian mass media space is rising to a new level. While it was previously confined to circulation of falsehood and distorted information, now the mechanisms of wiping off the Church in Ukraine are discussed in public already.

On 13 May 2016 a Galician TV channel “ZIK” released a program entitled “Get away with the Moscow Patriarchate”. The program name itself declares simply and unpretentiously the beginning of streamlined action in order to oust and forbid (or even destroy) the UOC – the only canonical Church in Ukraine, which makes a part of the Ecumenical Orthodoxy.

Not that this program did not involve falsehood and manipulations (both were delivered even in a bigger amount than in the materials on the UOC, presented by other Ukrainian mass media), but the “ZIK” channel pioneered public discussion of persecutions of the religious organization.

The announcement of the video on “YouTube” channel looks quite eloquent itself: “To forbid the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine. Such statements are made with an even more loud pitch and serious intention. Therefore, Ostap Drozdov’s program “Speak directly” brings up a question: if hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate have taken a Ukrainophobic position – what should be done with the fifth column in soutane?”   

Let’s not talk about professionalism of the ZIK journalists who, living in remote Lviv, may not know that the Orthodox clergy have nothing to do with “soutanes” (it’s a Catholic garb ed.). It is to be just remarked that program presenter Drozdov places the following post about his program on his Facebook page: “Orthodox believers, forgive me – but do you have at least a gram of the brain to be members of (patriarch ed.) Kiril’s schism and bring to this “church” the money which is then converted into bullets? I want to say that any person who is an MP member is simultaneously a member of Putin’s Kremlin’s organization waging a large-scale anti-Ukrainian campaign, disregarding the Ukrainian language, and avoiding the word “Ukraine”.    

It’s hardly worth analyzing the above speech that savors of flyblown lie, mixed with insults. One may though note it has nothing to do with basic norms of journalism, let alone the truth. That’s why we’d better move on to the program itself.

By and large it looked like a court session without the accused person and consisted of two parts.  

The former part served to plead the UOC guilty and deliver it a “death” sentence.

The latter was dedicated to searching for the mechanisms to enforce the above-mentioned sentence.

The program format – the presenter (in this case Ostap Drozdov) talks to his four guests in the studio, one of whom was available via Skype.

The program guests were:

- Taras Antoshevskiy – a RISU director (Religious and Information Service of Ukraine);

- Anatoliy Babinskiy – an editor of the “Patriarchate” journal;

- Galina Kharchenko – a civil activist;

- Vitaliy Oleshko – a member of “Donbass” battalion, member of the Initiative Group “Get away with the Moscow Patriarchate”. He was a virtual guest in the studio.

While the first two participants belong to the recognized elite of Greek-Catholic religious studies, the remaining two were supposed to play a “vox populi” part to counterbalance their vis-à-vis and pretend to express the “voice of the people” (in the required pre-agreed way). Actually, it was Galina Kharchenko, dressed in an authentic Ukrainian embroidered outskirt, who was ironically called by Drozdov a “voice of the people”. Her function was to revile, to outrage and support theses of other haranguers.     

Vitaliy Oleshko, owing to his military service primer, use of obscene language, and full ignorance of the church subject matter, left no doubts as for his affiliation to grass roots. He appeared to have assumed the “vox populi” function – by standing at the forefront and using swear-words he had to prove that “the folk is enraged and agitated”. In other words, he did a “dirty job” for the program authors on discrediting the UOC.

An inherent “democratic” feature of the Galician program was rare unanimity of its participants. Having as many as five prosecutors (or rather persecutors?), there wasn’t a single counsel for the defendant (the UOC). The point is it was not necessary. For any person, who is even superficially familiar with the matter in question, could demolish fragile and shaky constructions, erected in the program as a guilty verdict.     

The constructions, in their turn, were built on manipulations and falsehoods.

Let us begin, perhaps, with the most vivid and blatant one.

On the 25th minute of the video they are showing a photo of a certain hierarch who is holding St. George ribbons. The program host, without any doubt, claims this person is His Beatitude Onuphriy, and adds a quote “manuscripts do not burn”.

Any person, who has at least once seen Metropolitan Onuphriy, on taking a look at this photo will have second thoughts about whether the UOC Primate is in fact depicted there. That is what we did – doubted this claim. And it was not futile. After quick surf in Google images we found out that the man on the photo is Metropolitan of Yaroslavl’ and Rostov Panteleimon, the photo having been taken on 24 April 2015 in Yaroslavl’. Does it make any difference?  

This point should be particularly emphasized. There is not a single Internet publication with the above photo which mentions His Beatitude Onuphriy. It was Ostap Drozdov, presenter of “Speak directly” program who voiced this information for the first time, this is his “creativity”. It means Drozdov was not just mistaken, but told a lie; moreover, he did it CONSCIOUSLY, having a particular target. What target he had will be discussed a bit later.  

The rest of the demonstrated photos are not less “faithful”. A picture of the wrought-iron grille with plenty of ribbons tied to it (24:49) was not an iconostasis, as Drozdov assured, but an external gate of the Cathedral in Kronstadt, which had an open access.  As regards an icon of Stalin (26:00), it appeared to be in no way related to the Church.

It is indicative enough that Drozdov affirmed “UOC is a second Church in Ukraine” already in the program announcement, and kept repeating it throughout the whole program as an obvious fact. How could he reason it? Probably, with the help of some statistic data which were on the screen from time to time? On top of that, not a word was said concerning where these figures were taken from. Whether it was a fancy or fabrication of the presenter himself (as it was with the photo of the Russian Metropolitan) or inspiration of the graphic designer remains a murky secret for a viewer. 

Anyway, the church statistics according to “ZIK” is as follows:

- 25% – Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate
- 23% – unaffiliated Orthodox believers
- 17% – Ukrainian Orthodox Church
- 12% – regular believers
- 9% – Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
- 6% – atheists.

However, it did not occur to the program author that the simplest way to find out the number of believers of a particular denomination is to cite the statistics on the number of parishes. To be more correct, it did occur, but the true statistics was not presented as it is not convenient to the church policy makers. Why should a profane viewer know that the UOC exceeds the Kyiv Patriarchate nearly three times by the quantity of parishes, and more than 20 times by the number of monks!    

Who’s going to count those parishes altogether! For according to one of the respected guests, Anatoliy Babinskiy, “a parish is just a fizzle: it can include two persons”.

Well, the chief editor of the “Patriarchate” journal is likely to attend namely such tiny Greek Catholic community. In this case he is in a better position to judge… 

Perhaps, being Greek Catholic, he is again in a better position to judge what a “true” Orthodoxy should be then? He mentioned nothing about it during the program, but said that Orthodoxy is “dull” in Pochayiv. For this reason “educated clergy form Kiev” do not recommend their parishioners to visit the Pochayiv Lavra. It is visited mainly by Moldovan pilgrims, since “Orthodoxy in Moldova is dull as well”. It’s not hard to guess this blistering tirade was made to remind viewers that Bukovina is almost Moldova, and the UOC Primate, Metropolitan Onuphriy, was born there. 

Yet, may these words be on the chief editor’s conscience. We will, in our turn, come back to the creativity products of Mr. Drozdov. To be more precise, to his thesis on the UOC “being just a regional Church in Ukraine”. He believes he can make such conclusions given that 64% of the UOC parishes are located in central and eastern Ukraine.    

Undoubtedly, a dominant region in Ukraine for Drozdov and Co. is Galicia and Churches which are not primary there can be considered regional. Nevertheless, we will inform the rest (who are not from Galicia) that parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are uniformly and evenly located throughout the entire territory of the country, and only in three regions – Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk – the UOC is second to other denominations in parish quantity. 

However, statistics in this program performed an auxiliary function, emotions playing a leading role. Emotions do not involve facts but rather enthusiasm, passion, zeal:

UOC MP (members) are bastards and scums that triggered off the war in Ukraine. They keep promoting their damned “Russian World”. They are a terrorist extremist organization. We have to get done with them like we did with the Communists. Fucking hell! In Berdiansk we (“Donbass” battalion ed.) gathered elderly men and women on the 9th of May and said to them, “If you come out with Colorado rags (i.e. St. George Ribbons), we’ll beat you heavily despite your age”.   

The above quote belongs to the expert who takes part in the public program on religion. The quote that was acclaimed enthusiastically by the presenter and the other guests.  

These words sounded on the air and shook the air of the television channel which went on air for a long time with the logo “A single country”. The logo, aimed at preventing the situation in Ukraine from disruption.  

At that time executives of the country’s media-groups and channels used to declare, ”We have one country and common values to bring us together. We have no need to divide anything”.

Unfortunately, this logo having sprung up in March 2014 failed to rescue the country from the disruption. A mental abyss between the East and the West of Ukraine grew even deeper. Over the last two years the country has undergone a global split that resulted in thousands of people being killed, injured and crippled in the ATO zone.  

Now that the conflict in Donbass is simmering, the main TV platform of the western Ukraine broadcasts messages, capable of sparkling a new confrontation in the country.  

A violent nature of these statements, their ungrounded accusative rhetoric and absence of any alternative viewpoint, own-produced barefaced lie – all this compels to speak about a planned and evidently framed up propaganda action, directed at shaping and molding the “required” public opinion.  

It’s easy to guess what it is all about.

On 22 April there was published a draft law 4511 “On the special status of religious organizations, the administrative centers of which are situated in the state, recognized by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as an aggressor state”.   

It’s quite apparent the draft law had been drawn up to get a total control of the UOC by the state. It contains a lot of flagrantly discriminatory provisions, the key one being a paragraph that the state in the event of adopting such draft law shall have the right to eliminate this Church. For that end one needs “just” to reveal the facts of its collaboration with “representatives of militarist and terrorist groups”. How painless it is to tag somebody as a terrorist in Ukraine was clear from the course of the program analysis.  

On 12 May Ternopil Regional Council appealed to the President of Ukraine and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and requested to regain the State Conservation Zone status for the Pochayiv Lavra.

We want to take this sanctity back into state ownership and then, by virtue of open tender on the right to use particular cultural buildings, to let other churches, including Greek-Catholic Church, enjoy a possibility to hold their moleben services and worships”, declared A.Tsybulskiy, one of theTernopol Regional Council deputies.  

Interestingly, it was not a long time ago that the “Smaller Sophia” church, being a part of the “Kyiv Sophia” State Conservation Area, was transferred to the Kyiv Patriarchate. Now the deputies from Ternopil demand that the working monastery be made a conservation zone. This fact of “equal” attitude of the current state authorities to Orthodox confessions is so remarkable it does need any additional commentary. 

One may think a special attention in this program to the Pochayiv Lavra is not a coincidence. Nor is the fact that the program went on air on the same day as the address of Ternopil Regional Council was submitted.

To date the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the only structure in Ukraine which has maintained its influence throughout the whole territory of the state, including the Crimea and the East of Ukraine. Calls to destroy this structure cannot be qualified otherwise than separatist ones. Furthermore, whereas an armed conflict in Donbass, despite its broad delimitative line, can be called at a stretch local, attempts to eliminate the UOC can blow the country from inside, since the Church faithful are available in all regions without exceptions.

It’s no secret the most terrifying wars in the history of humanity are religious wars. Ostap Drozdov can hardly not know about it or understand it. Most likely, he does not care about it. Patriotism of the journalists if this ilk is manifested exceptionally in pompous rhetoric and confined to their purse, their ambience, and their region. But such kind of patriotism bears striking similarity to separatism.
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