Lies and threats as arguments for banning the UOC
MP Poturaev said that the UOC is “not about Christ,” that it is led by an aggressor country, and urged the media to pressure Rada deputies to vote for the Church’s ban.
MP of Ukraine, head of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, Mykyta Poturaev, told Espreso about the reasons for banning the UOC, as well as how the Verkhovna Rada can get the required number of votes in order to do this.
Are there any votes to ban the UOC?
At the very beginning of the interview, Poturaev admitted that the ban on the UOC for him personally is an “important” and “painful” issue. That is, Poturaev practically immediately demonstrated that he could not approach the church issue neutrally, as befits a politician. This is an important observation because it underscores that the initiators of the Church ban are guided solely by emotions and personal "feelings," which is simply unacceptable in the work of someone representing the interests of the state.
In fact, the interview itself is dedicated to the recent statement by the Rada Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk, who said that draft laws to ban the UOC are not being brought to the floor because there are no votes for them. Poturaev explains that Stefanchuk is right, and at the moment, there are not enough required 226 votes to pass the legislation. He then goes on to explain why this situation has arisen. And this "explanation" is a prime example of crafty sophistry.
According to Poturaev, the lack of votes cannot be explained by the fact that there are “agents of influence of a particular Church” in the Rada. Rather, “there are indeed people who remain faithful to this particular Church,” and there are people who are “misinformed or ill-informed.”
Where does this "misinformation" come from? Poturaev claims that the MPs who oppose the ban on the UOC believe that passing anti-church laws "will violate the principle of non-interference of the state in the activities of churches" and will contradict freedom of religion. And, he says, this is not true.
As evidence that this is not the case, the MP delivers a speech in which he once again asserts that the state "is not fighting against any church but only wants to say that Ukrainian religious organizations cannot have ties with organizations governed by the leadership of an aggressor state."
Who leads the UOC?
Seemingly, such a serious accusation that the UOC "is led by the leadership of an aggressor country" cannot be baseless and requires evidence. However, there is none. Specifically, the leadership of Russia consists of Putin and the Russian government. Does Poturaev seriously believe that they control the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? It's highly unlikely. One could assume that this respected MP simply hasn't learned to articulate his thoughts accurately and actually meant the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. But even here, his words are not supported by any facts.
Firstly, the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church has no influence on the decisions made in the UOC. This has been the case for a long time, since the issuance of the Patriarch Alexy's Tomos in 1990.
Secondly, after the Council in Feofania, the Charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church did not even hint at any administrative ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Thirdly, Poturaev either genuinely doesn't understand or pretends not to understand the difference between administrative and Eucharistic communion. In the aforementioned Patriarch Alexy's Tomos, there is no mention anywhere that the UOC "submits to" the Russian Orthodox Church, which "leads" it. On the contrary, it emphasizes full independence in governance. Not seeing this can only be done by someone for whom the ban on the UOC is a "painful issue" unrelated to real facts.
Fourthly, if the UOC were indeed administratively dependent on the Russian Church, it would not be difficult for Poturaev to specify how this dependence is manifested in reality. Recently, Metropolitan Luke of Zaporizhzhia asked the authorities a simple question: in what specific ways is the UOC "managed by the aggressor country"? What are the mechanisms?
Is it really so hard to answer this question? After all, if the UOC is genuinely being led from abroad, then let Poturaev say who from the Russian Orthodox Church, when, and to whom in the UOC gave any directives.
The head of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy does not answer any of these questions and instead engages in discussions about how, supposedly, Ukrainian public organizations cannot have ties with an aggressor country.
Intimidation as a last resort argument
To finally deal with the UOC, Poturaev says, "we need to work more" to ensure that "we have not just 226 but 250 votes." How does he plan to "work"? It's quite simple. Poturaev explicitly states that "without pressure from the public and the media, unfortunately, we won't achieve this," and "the entire country needs to know specifically which members of the Verkhovna Rada are willing to vote and who is not." He also told the program host that he had "repeatedly asked media colleagues and the public sector" to determine the positions of elected representatives through a "phone survey."
What does this "phone survey" entail, and how might it proceed? MPs are asked about their stance, and if it doesn't align with the "party's policy," it is exposed in the public sphere, potentially leading to media harassment. And perhaps, it might not end with just harassment.
Just a while ago, in response to Stefanchuk's remarks about the lack of votes to ban the UOC, the leader of the extremist organization "C14," Yevhen Karas, promised to "punch in the f... face" of every MP who refuses to vote for the ban – he only needs names and lists. Now, Poturaev has effectively called for the compilation of such lists. It's clear that among MPs, there are many courageous individuals who cannot be intimidated by Karas. But besides Karas, there are other radicals, and MPs have families and children. Given such a scenario, can lawmakers vote freely, relying on the law and the Ukrainian Constitution?
In fact, using his official position, Poturaev is intimidating those MPs who refuse to ban the UOC without trial, reason, or argument.
Furthermore, another crucial question arises: to what extent is it even legal to pressure members of parliament to force them to vote in a particular way? Especially since "button-pushing," a similar tactic, is not just criticized but also criminally punishable. And Poturaev's actions are arguably worse than "button-pushing."
Towards the end of his interview, Poturaev mentioned that even Russian Buddhists support the war against Ukraine (so will they be banned too?). He then claimed that representatives of the UOC, by protesting against their ban, "invite public anger and calamity upon themselves." He stated, "They would rather have supported [the law –Ed.], they would rather have severed all ties, but now, they are not just trying to preserve some illusory ties with Moscow; because of their stance, potential openings for hostile penetration by other religious organizations are preserved."
What does this even mean? Will Ukrainian Buddhists, seeing that the UOC is not banned, support a war instigated by Russia? And why did "leadership from an aggressor country" suddenly turn into "illusory ties"?
Realizing that he had said something utterly bizarre, Poturaev rushed to threaten the Church hierarchs who "demand that we don't interfere in their affairs," stating that they are "doing worse to themselves." He said, "Such stubbornness 'will end for you' much worse than it could have ended," adding that "you are essentially creating additional opportunities for the enemy to interfere in Ukraine's affairs." The journalist listened to this stream of consciousness with glassy eyes. Fortunately for everyone, the broadcast ended, and Poturaev didn't have to explain what he meant by these statements.
Firstly, even the main initiators of the Church ban cannot clearly formulate arguments justifying this prohibition.
Secondly, the arguments they do put forth lack any evidential basis.
Thirdly, among the members of parliament, there are a sufficient number who understand that anti-church laws violate the Constitution and human rights.
Fourthly, due to the absence of facts, the initiators of the ban are forced to resort to intimidation, blackmail, and falsehoods.
This situation appears so absurd that we keep asking ourselves, "Who benefits from this?"
On September 26, the Holy Synod of the UOC answered this question – it benefits Ukraine's enemies. Will those who hold the fate of our homeland in their hands hear the words of the Synod? We will find out in the near future.