Identification of Zinkevich: What is known about a potential head of OCU

UOC KP "metropolitan" Mikhail Zinkevich of Lutsk and Volyn. Photo: UOJ

The past, present and future of one of the most scandalous "clerics" of the Kiev Patriarchate Mikhail Zinkevich.

Observing ups and downs of the showdown of the nominal head of the OCU Epiphany Dumenko and its “honorary patriarch” Filaret Denisenko, we completely left out of account a person whom the future fate of this religious structure might depend on. It is "metropolitan" Mikhail Zinkevich of Lutsk and Volyn.

Zinkevich is one of the most odious and scandalous "clerics" of the Kiev Patriarchate. Until recent developments, he was considered an opinion leader of the group, which had an alternative to Filaret's view on the development of the UOC KP. Rumor has it that this group of "bishops", lending unreserved support to Mikhail, consists of 12 people.

In addition to them, inside the UOC KP there is rather a large group of “bishops” sympathizing with Zinkevich, who were ready to back his candidacy for the post of Primate of the OCU during the “Unification Council”. However, it did not work out, primarily because “patriarch” Filaret personally came out against him. Then “metropolitan” Mikhail put up with it and withdrew his candidacy.

But did he refuse to fight for the post of primate of the OCU, what kind of person is he and what can we expect from him in the near future?

Money, cars, property

"Metropolitan" Mikhail of Lutsk and Volyn is a mechanic by education. For some time he worked at the Pochaev Lavra and then decided to connect his life with God and from 1990 to 1994 he studied at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. However, either because of the lack of prospects for becoming a bishop of the canonical Church or because of personal motives, Zinkevich went into schism in 1997 and in three years was promoted from a simple "priest" to a "bishop" of the Kiev Patriarchate.

He is spoken of as a man to whom the ascetic norms of the monastics are alien. Moreover, the posh personal life of the “His Eminence” Mikhail repeatedly became the object of criticism of the Volyn mass media, which led to excuses like “one shouldn’t say that everyone, who has a beautiful car, must have stolen it”. We do not know about everyone, but Zinkevich himself was often accused of financial frauds and business activities which the Church should not have any relation to.

In June 2016, the media published information, according to which “metropolitan” Mikhail became the founder of an enterprise called “Solomon”. According to journalists, the “’Solomon’ enterprise was set up in order to cover real estate transactions. Indeed, it is precisely known that the premises of the diocesan administration of the Volyn diocese of the UOC KP are rented for various needs. Among tenants, Zinkevich has boutiques of fashionable clothes and shoes, bookstores, cafes, photo salons and more. By the way, premises in the new building of the Volyn Orthodox Theological Academy are also rented for commercial activity.”

“One shouldn’t say that everyone, who has a beautiful car, must have stolen it.”

UOC KP “Metropolitan” Mikhail Zinkevich of Lutsk and Volyn

Later, in June 2017, the Volyn Eparchy of the UOC KP and personally “Metropolitan” Mikhail were implicated in the scandal which broke out due to the expulsion of the publishing house “Initial” from the premises, rented out by the diocesan administration. Zinkevich then claimed that verbal agreements were concluded between him and the head of the publishing house, which were not formalized. According to him, "patriarch" Filaret had ordered to oust the publishing house, since it did not provide financial assistance to the monastery.

However, these allegations were refuted by Viktor Fedosiuk, the director of Initial, who accused the UOC KP of trafficking in money and called Zinkevich “a Pharisee and a liar”.

Candles, bullets and saint UPA warriors 

Perhaps, Mikhail Zinkevich is known most of all for his scandalous statements, which, in addition to their absurdity and deceit, are sometimes on the brink of breaking the rules and using obscene language.

During his speeches on the Maidan, Zinkevich identified the path to God with European integration: “We have one path – to God. And to Europe.”

A little later, accusing Orthodox Christians of terrorism, Zinkevich argued that in this way he “calls people to correctly understand the evangelical life and attitude to Ukraine, how to live in Ukraine and what church to go to”. According to him, everyone “who donates to the UOC temple, supports terrorism”.

These completely absurd allegations look especially hypocritical and deceitful at a time when his brother, “archpriest” Anatoly Zinkevich, did not disdain to buy church items at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, while the Lutsk “metropolitan” himself was repeatedly noticed with the products of Moscow-based Sofrino production association.

The discrepancy between words and deeds does not in the least embarrass Zinkevich. Holding in his hands the cross of the Sofrino production, he could quite calmly assert that the UPA soldiers are “people of holy life” in whose honor one should consecrate temples.

In the same way, his attitude towards the legitimization of a split could change depending on the circumstances. At one time, talking about the Tomos, Zinkevich would ask, “Why do we need this piece of paper?”, but a little later solemnly bring a copy of “this piece of paper” to the head of the Lutsk Regional State Administration.

Flip-flopping policy

In general, the ability to tack and trim the sails to the wind is a distinctive feature of Zinkevich. It is known that “metropolitan” Mikhail is a very pragmatic and cautious person and hardly ever has openly opposed Filaret. Even when he was particularly dissatisfied with the "patriarch".

The only case where the “metropolitan” of Lutsk allowed himself to publicly disagree with the decisions of Filaret is related to the infringement of his personal interests. In 2017, the Synod of the UOC KP decided to separate almost 100 parishes from the Eparchy of Mikhail to establish one Vladimir-Volyn Eparchy. It was then that Zinkevich subjected the “patriarch” to harsh criticism: “I was put before the fact that my eparchy was divided. I believe that this decision is superficial and unjustified.”

Mikhail Zinkevich is a very pragmatic and cautious person and has hardly ever openly opposed Filaret. Even when he was particularly dissatisfied with the "patriarch".

Being the informal leader of the anti-Filaret group, Zinkevich managed to never show his “true face” to the “honorary patriarch”. The same, by the way, can be said about his relationship with the current Primate of the OCU Epiphany.

Never criticizing Filaret’s “golden child”, Zinkevich at the same time demonstrates quite clearly his absolute resentment toward Epiphany – both as a primate and as a “hierarch” in general. A good example is the absence of Epiphany in Lutsk, where the former President of Ukraine Poroshenko together with Filaret brought Tomos. Is it a coincidence? Hardly. Especially if we take into account that it was Zinkevich, not the head of the OCU, who a little later delivered to Ukraine the “holy fire” (we use quotation marks because we really do not know what lit this fire), which gave a handle to TSN journalists to assume that he was one of the trouble makers in the OCU.

The Primate who was not elected

Even before the “Unification Council”, rumors were circulating within the UOC KP that the protege of Filaret Epiphany was a pro-Russian candidate, and therefore, a real patriot had to be elected instead Epiphany. Naturally, Mikhail Zinkevich was a leader with almost no alternatives in this respect. This fact did not escape Filaret, who was tempted in political battles, and he demanded that Zinkevich abandon the struggle for primacy. Otherwise, Filaret threatened to disrupt the “Council” and refuse to liquidate the UOC KP. Zinkevich agreed to this requirement.

Later, he told me that he decided to renounce his ambitions of power because “Ukraine is above all”. According to him, “there were heated discussions between me and Filaret. As a result, without agreeing on anything, part of the delegates left Warm Sofia and went to Great Sofia with me. Practically we were on the verge of non-dissolving. I went to tell that they were blackmailing me so that I would not put forward my candidacy. This was undemocratic and unfair. The reaction of both the MP and the autocephalous Church (UAOC – Ed.) was so that they wanted to leave the Council ... I was not accused of anything; nothing prevented me from becoming a primate. Then a dilemma arose: either I stick to my guns and go all the way – in this case the other part could leave the Council.  But then we would again have breakaway groups, again several Orthodox Churches, accusations of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Russian triumph. There was a choice: either me and my ego or Ukraine. I made a decision: Ukraine is above all!”

However, as it turned out, Poroshenko and the head of the Verkhovna Rada Andrei Paruby had been explaining to Zinkevich the meaning of this slogan for several hours and finally managed to persuade him to withdraw his candidacy from the ballot. Finally, the President of Ukraine publicly thanked Mikhail Zinkevich for the “courage” he showed at the Council.

It is known that Epiphany was well aware of the fact that Filaret demands from Zinkevich namely a written refusal, not just verbal assurances.

Now Zinkevich claims that he has an absolutely normal relationship with Epiphany. But he does not think he should give up a chance to head the OCU in the future.

The struggle goes on

The recent rhetoric by Zinkevich suggests that the “church coup,” initiated by Filaret, has not yet entered the active stage. Press secretary Paruby and former press secretary of Filaret Andrei Kovalev, who regards himself as a camper for the “honorary patriarch” supporters and at the same time gets on very well with “metropolitan” Mikhail, promised that in July “the era of boys in the OCU will end ".

Zinkevich, in turn, keeps reiterating that he had all the chances to head the OCU, which Filaret agrees with. It can be assumed that the “honorary patriarch” as a dexterous and crafty politician butters up Zinkevich’s power ambitions, which, in turn, plays along with Filaret when he asserts that “the Kiev Patriarchate is needed as a task for the OCU for the future”.

Naturally, Zinkevich sees himself as the head of this future “patriarchy”. Why do we think so?

Zinkevich understands perfectly well that the canonical recognition of the schismatic structure called OCU is a matter of a remote and very vague prospect, the chances of which are rapidly diminishing. Therefore, at the moment he is trying to take a position that would allow him to win in any case. To fight for the legitimization of the split is up to Epiphany, in his opinion. In the event of failure, this will give him a reason to accuse the head of the OCU of inconsistency and demand the return of the UOC KP. 

"The era of the boys (in the OCU – Ed.) will come to an end in July."

Andrei Kovalev, head of the press service of the Verkhovna Rada speaker, former press secretary of Filaret Denisenko

The authors of the story point out that, in Kovalev's understanding, “boys” are the “primate” Epiphany Dumenko and the young episcopate of the OCU.

On the other hand, Dumenko will be able to achieve at least some acceptable results only if he fully observes the instructions of Phanar. This, in addition to recognizing the OCU as a structure of the Constantinople Patriarchate, will give Zinkevich a reason to declare himself the only fighter for the complete independence of this “Church” from the Ecumenical Patriarch. Both in the former and in the latter case, Epiphany will obviously lose.

Of course, we do not exclude the third scenario. For example, in June, the “Council” of the OCU will be held, at which they will raise an issue of re-election of the primate, since many are not happy about the current head of this organization. In this case, the candidacy of Zinkevich as a winner is viewed as most real. True though, he will have to fight for the recognition of his “Church” by world Orthodoxy, which, of course, he does not want to do. Being a career-conscious man, it is much easier for him to use others to pull chestnuts out of the fire.

We do not consider the option of his remaining the Lutsk "metropolitan" at all. Just because lust for power is stronger than reasons of conscience. Especially when it comes to Zinkevich.

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