Why does the OCU stand up for Poroshenko?
The OCU stated "political motivation" is unacceptable in the trial of Poroshenko. But is he the only one that worries this structure? Maybe, they are concerned, too.
On June 12, 2020, the "Kyiv Metropolis" of the OCU, led by Epiphany Dumenko, published a statement to law enforcement agencies demanding not to "persecute" Petro Poroshenko.
According to its authors, the reasoning for such a statement is simple: Petro Poroshenko suffers from political pressure, and the trial of his actions resembles "the shameful persecution of political opponents by the previous government of V. Yanukovich". Actually, the OCU seems more concerned about the impact it may have on the "bright image" of the OCU itself rather than the fact that the authorities are pressing charges against Poroshenko: "Recently, especially in the media related to the aggressor country, there has been a persistent idea that various charges against the fifth President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko have something to do with his role as Head of State in promoting church unification, the formation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and receiving the Tomos from the Ecumenical Patriarch.”
Indeed, the OCU has never particularly concealed its connection with Poroshenko, but this statement, even in the general context, stands out. That is why it is appropriate to briefly recall why the Ukrainian judicial system launched several criminal cases against Petro Poroshenko.
On May 10, law enforcement bodies attempted to serve Petro Poroshenko with a suspicion in the case of appointing Sergei Semochko, deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service.
On May 26, 2020, the former President of Ukraine was summoned for questioning by the State Bureau for Criminal Investigation, inquiring into the circumstances of crossing the border of Ukraine with the concealment from customs control of a collection of 43 paintings by world-famous artists.
The "picture case" appeared almost immediately after the scandal with the so-called "Biden tapes", on which the Prosecutor General's Office has already opened criminal proceedings for treason. We recall that these notorious tapes recorded the words of the fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, testifying that he, by order of Joe Biden, changed the Ukrainian civil servants and interfered in the work of law enforcement agencies. In particular, Poroshenko promised to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in exchange for the IMF loan guarantees.
Of course, these proceedings are not the most important of those that potentially threaten Petro Poroshenko, but they are enough to understand that Petro Poroshenko’s not doing very well.
Who and why does the OCU defend?
Some may say that by standing up for Petro Poroshenko, the OCU is fulfilling the Church's centuries-old Christian mission to protect the weak and oppressed. However, this religious structure has never directly appealed to the Ukrainian judicial system to stop prosecuting a person. Haven’t there been any more innocent victims of Ukrainian justice besides Poroshenko?
We all know a lot of cases when UOC believers were beaten and maimed during the seizures of Orthodox churches, we remember looters with angle grinders who cut the locks and doors of Orthodox churches. We also know that no claims have been made by the Ukrainian judiciary against these people. Were there any statements from the OCU then? No. That is why we can assume that speaking in defence of Petro Poroshenko, the OCU pursues completely different goals that do not intersect with Christian morality and values.
Even a cursory analysis of the text of the OCU's statement makes it possible to conclude that it is filled with parroted lines and clichés, aimed at putting pressure on the Ukrainian authorities. For example, members of this religious structure allow themselves to arbitrarily charge law enforcers with corruption and consider the country's judicial system to be "causing a confidence crisis in society". It seems to the authors of the statement that by using clichés about the "aggressor country", "situations of war", "political persecution", "revenge" of enemies, etc., they can force public authorities to abandon the investigation of the crimes of an individual citizen.
The OCU's statements are due to the fact that they understand perfectly well that the stain on Poroshenko's reputation is a stain on the OCU's reputation.
Moreover, the text poses an undisguised threat to the Ukrainian authorities regarding peace inside the country: “Obviously, any political motivation in the activities of law enforcement bodies and the initiation of criminal proceedings, in particular against the fifth president of Ukraine, is unacceptable. It will be dangerous for the civil peace in the conditions of Russian aggression, when the aggressor country gladly uses any conflicts inside Ukraine to the detriment of our state and to achieve its goals in a hybrid war."
Such strict requirements and statements are due to the fact that the PCU understands perfectly well: the stain on Poroshenko's reputation is a stain on the reputation of the PCU itself. What problems for Epiphany’s structure can litigation against Petro Poroshenko entail?
What can the OCU expect from the trial of Poroshenko?
First, the trial of Ukraine's fifth president automatically calls into question the honesty of the methods used by the previous government to seek the Tomos. In addition, the court may simultaneously raise the issue of using state resources to achieve religious goals. For example, they may question the legality of Poroshenko's appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew with a request for the Tomos. They may also inquire for whose money the Ukrainian delegation headed by the President repeatedly visited Istanbul. After all, if we remember that the Church in our country is separated from the state, then these and similar things can be used to accuse of violating the Constitution of Ukraine.
Secondly, the Ukrainian society still does not know all the details of the agreement between Petro Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew – what exactly did the Ukrainian authorities promise the Phanar in exchange for the Tomos? And in general, how legal can an official contract between the head of the Ukrainian state and the head of the Turkish religious structure be?
Thirdly, the trial of Poroshenko may provoke another (or more) judicial investigation, which will lead to very serious problems for the leadership of the OCU itself. And if we remember that right now some "hierarchs" of this structure are already involved in court proceedings with the "Honorary Patriarch" Filaret, the situation becomes very unfavorable for them. For example, the State Bureau of Investigation has launched a pre-trial investigation into incitement to interfaith hatred. The chief lawyer of the Kyiv Patriarchate (who initiated the trial) Neonila Tkachenko said that Petro Poroshenko, Epiphany Dumenko and former Minister of Culture Yevhen Nishchuk are under investigation in this case. According to the UOC-KP lawyers, the subject of the investigation is precisely the abuses in receiving the Tomos and the subsequent deregistration of the Kyiv Patriarchate.
Fourthly, not only the methods by which the Tomos was obtained, but also its legitimacy can be questioned. Of course, the decision of the Ukrainian court regarding the abuses of power cannot directly affect the decision of Patriarch Bartholomew but may influence the Phanar’s attitude to Epiphany.
Poroshenko is now becoming a "toxic figure," and this toxicity is gradually spreading to all his entourage, including the religious one. Epiphany in Orthodoxy is beginning to be shied away. And the deaf silence on the name day of the head of the OCU speaks eloquently about this. Not only the Hellenic and Alexandrian Churches that recognized the OCU but even the "Mother Church" itself – the Patriarchate of Constantinople – failed to congratulate him.
Poroshenko is now becoming a "toxic figure," and this toxicity is gradually spreading to all his entourage, including the religious one. Epiphany in Orthodoxy is beginning to be shied away.
Fifthly, legal proceedings, and even more so any evidence of the impropriety of the "Tomos case", may very strongly influence the decision to recognize the OCU by other Local Churches.
And even if the court does not prove Dumenko's direct involvement in any schemes, the trial against Poroshenko still casts a shadow over the head of the OCU. Why?
Shadow of Petro Poroshenko
Let us recall that Epiphanius openly and quite actively spoke in favouhr of only one candidate during the previous presidential elections in Ukraine: "We see only President Poroshenko in this post."
The same Dumenko sang praises of Poroshenko immediately after receiving the Tomos: "Your name, Mr. President, will forever go down in the history of the Ukrainian people and Church along with the names of our rulers, Princes Vladimir the Great, Yaroslav the Wise, Constantine of Ostrog and Hetman Ivan Mazepa." Moreover, it was Epiphany who publicly called Petro Poroshenko a model leader. At the same time, the main positive feature of Poroshenko's character, according to the head of the OCU, is the ability to diplomatically persuade people: “He is persistent, if he has a certain goal, he brings the case to an end. When he took up the church issue and met with the Ecumenical Patriarch for the first time in April 2018, many doubted (the success of the idea to get the Tomos). But Petro Poroshenko has the charisma to diplomatically persuade people." Well, it is this "skill" that most likely interested the Ukrainian court.
The leadership of the OCU draws a clear demarcation line between the current government and the previous government, directly contrasting Poroshenko's "church" position with that of the current President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky. Most recently, Dumenko has said: “We see some difference between the previous government and the current government in Ukraine. That is, the previous authorities treated the Church more responsibly, and now we also have good relations with the Ukrainian government, there is no interference, but sometimes there is no such assistance and certain help on the ground. But in the future, I am sure, the state will fully understand the role played by the Ukrainian Сhurch, the real Ukrainian Сhurch, which stands on the principles of making Ukraine a strong state."
The whole story of relations between the OCU and the Ukrainian authorities, and now possible problems with the law, shows one clear axiom: the Church must be separated from politics. Forgetting this, the Church risks turning into a political party or becoming an appendage of those in power, fulfilling their demands and wishes. This is one of the many big problems of the OCU, which arose due to the "political will" of the Ukrainian authorities, not the canons of the Church.
After all, Dumenko himself has never hid his dependence on Poroshenko. However, sooner or later one will have to pay for receiving the Tomos, for taking the place of the head of the newly formed structure and removing Filaret Denisenko from power. And Epiphany now perfectly understands this fact. That is why he and his "Church" came out to defend Poroshenko. After all, in a sense, the trial of Petro Poroshenko may turn into the trial of the OCU. Are they ready to pay such a price for for the preferences received? Well, hardly.