Whose ears are sticking out of local bans on the UOC

Poroshenko continues to play the church card, going against Zelensky's position. Photo: UOJ

A curious pattern becomes apparent with each new decision of the local authorities to ban the activities of the UOC.

At the moment more than a dozen settlements of Ukraine have decided to terminate the activities of the UOC in one form or another. All these documents are richly variegated with emotional images and worn-out stamps taken from the "patriot" dictionary. But no one even tries to provide at least some kind of evidence base.

Plenty of emotions, no facts

Let’s take a look at the appeal of the Ovruch City Council, for example. According to the deputies, "during its existence in the territory of our state, the UOC has been an instrument of propaganda of the 'Russian world', and still remains the leading information force in the war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine."

Any documented facts? Any offences recorded by security forces? Any court decisions? Well, Ovruch deputies do not care about such “trifles”.

A similar statement was made by the mayor of Konotop Artem Seminykhin: "Given the open pro-Russian propaganda in the temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, <…> ban [its] activities [on] the territory of the Konotop City Council."

Any examples of specific statements or sermons? Any expert conclusions on which of the formulations can be considered propagandist? Any court verdicts? Again, no bother?

A similar pattern occurs in every case without exception.

Verdicts on what to do with the "Propaganda Church" in the entrusted territory of local authorities vary slightly:

  • from appeals to the schismatics: "We call on all churches belonging to the UOC-MP to hold a parish meeting and decide on the transition to the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine" (appeal of the Kazatin City Council);
  • to total bans: "To prohibit the activities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the territory of the Konotop City Council" (order of the Konotop mayor).

All the above is wrapped in instructions to law enforcement agencies to seal the UOC temples.

Does the order of addends change the sum?

Reading a dozen of resolutions for the umpteenth time, one cannot but get rid of the deja vu feeling: the wording seems to be different, but at the same time it seems to be written off like a copier. Only with microscopic linguistic nuances: in one document "pro-Russian propaganda", in another – "propaganda of the ‘Russian world’", in one "anti-Ukrainian activity", in another – "ideological work for the enemy", etc.

Just like in political flash mobs, when advocates for a particular political force disperse the "betrayal" of competitors or the "victory" of their patron on social networks, without bothering to search for original ideas and theses. For example, recently, in the midst of the then still apparently vigorous Ukrainian-Russian peace talks, the President's Office began to issue cautious hints at the possibility of renouncing NATO membership in exchange for the return of territories. Former President Petro Poroshenko's sympathizers with his "Eurosolidarity", the so-called "vacuum cleaners", immediately began to fill the media space with "expert" accusations of Bankova's defeatist sentiments and talk about the threat of capitulation.

In our case, at first glance, different solutions have exactly the same formula, clearly developed in one center: the UOC means propaganda, the "Russian world" means to split or ban. What center in Ukraine can never be easy until it messes with the canonical Church?

This is him, this is him

If one takes a look at the political affiliation of mayors who are trying in one way or another to ban the UOC, the picture is seemingly quite diverse:

  • Vladimir Remenyak (Lviv Region), Roman Kaznovetsky (Lanovtsy, Ternopil Region) and Vitaly Buzil (Shepetivka, Khmelnytsky Region) – European Solidarity;
  • Ruslan Martsinkiv (Ivano-Frankivsk) and Artem Seminikhin (Konotop, Sumy Region) – VO Svoboda;
  • Roman Gritsay (Drohobych, Lviv Region) – Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc;
  • Tatiana Ermolaeva (Kazatyn, Vinnytsia Region) – Groysman's Ukrainian Strategy;
  • officials in Brovary, Malyn, Novohrad-Volynskyi, Ovruch, Radomyshl and Uzhhorod are either self-nominated or representatives of other political forces.

However, the UOJ sources in different cities say that Petro Poroshenko's "European Solidarity" orchestrates the anti-church movement everywhere or almost everywhere.

By the way, this can be traced without any special insiders. For example, Vladimir Groysman, whose Kazatyn mayor Yermolayeva urges UOC communities to go to the Uniates or Protestants, is a well-known protege of the ex-president.

In Brovary, the mayor (a representative of the party named after himself, Igor Sapozhko's Unity Team) was not the initiator of the UOC ban at all. Just five minutes before the beginning of the session, Leonid Cherepeynik, a deputy from the Holos party, submitted an anti-church document for consideration. Moreover, the European Solidarity and Holos even made joint statements. If we talk about some ideological bills at the level of the Verkhovna Rada, the “Big Troika” – European Solidarity + Holos + Svoboda are thick as thieves.

In general, everyone remembers the fact that namely Petro Poroshenko during his presidency launched persecution against the UOC to a new state level. He lobbied for the creation of a schismatic OCU and the bestowal of the Tomos from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Right now his ratings and those of his political forces are as low as ever.

Of Poroshenko's three favorite pillars ("Army, Language, Faith"), the first two were reliably saddled by the team of President Vladimir Zelensky, who received unprecedented support among Ukrainians amid the war. The only pillar on which the head of Eurosolidarity can hope to somehow rely on is "Faith".

This is a win-win issue for him: add "Moscow Patriarchate" to the UOC, rant about the "Russian world" – and one will surely secure patriots to deal with the "fifth column in robes." Moreover, this faith issue is a good avenue to take away points from Vladimir Zelensky team.

According to the recent study by the YouControl analytical system, Roshen Central European Confectionery Company, owned by Roshen Corporation, owns Roshen LLC, registered in the Lipetsk region of Russia. In addition, PJSC Sevmorzavod, whose beneficiary is Petro Poroshenko, is a member of two Crimean companies re-registered under Russian law. The system took data from the Unified State Register of Legal Entities of Russia.

Poroshenko's press service denies his business involvement with Russia.

Who will stop the split?

However, the President's team have voiced opposite narratives and a different treatment the UOC for the time being.

Adviser to the OP Head Mikhail PODOLYAK:

"I would ask people not to speculate on this (the issue of banning the UOC – Ed.), because we can trigger an internal conflict; however, the unity that Ukraine has demonstrated to the whole world is much more fundamental and much more important for us today. <…> The Ukrainian Orthodox Church will decide on its own how it will exist in the post-war Ukraine, because it will be crucial to it.”

Adviser to the OP Head Alexei ARESTOVICH:

"There was a lot of talk about his (His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry’s – Ed.) personal position, but immediately on the day when the blows began and all, many believed that Kyiv would fall in 24 hours, he stated his position clearly: it is aggression.”

Head of the OP Andrey YERMAK:

"Recently, a huge number of disinformation publications and fake stuff have appeared in social networks, which are dispersed by Russian bots and ‘useful idiots’ in Ukraine. <…> Ideas around the religious conflict due to the presence of the ‘Russian Church’ in Ukraine. Calls for pogroms. <…> Remember that the SBU is working. And we must not prevent them from doing their job against provocateurs. Any split benefits only our enemies."

Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan STEFANCHUK:

"We have been discussing this issue (about the ban of the UOC – Ed.)  for a long time within our political groups. And despite the fact that everyone somewhere inside has their own internal decision <...>, we have agreed as follows: during the war we have no right to pass any law that splits the Ukrainian society."

President Vladimir ZELENSKY:

On this day (March 12, 2022 – Ed.) we sent another humanitarian cargo to Mariupol. I am grateful to every driver who is trying to carry out this difficult mission, to the representatives of the Church who have joined the efforts to protect the humanitarian corridor in Mariupol from shelling."

The rhetoric and position of the President's entourage is correct. However, the recent developments events prove that this position should be implemented "yesterday". After all, in the struggle for the rating, Poroshenko can play the church card further – and even more aggressively. Zelensky and his team must understand that this boundless iniquity is not just a blow to Ukraine as a State governed by the rule of law, and a split in society. This is also a matter of responsibility of the current government, including a blow to its rating. After all, it is the authorities that can stop the current lawlessness.

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