By Rostislav Ishchenko
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard

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Poroshenko decided to build his electoral campaign on the destabilisation of the country. This move could be effective, although extremely risky if Petro Poroshenko understood what game he started and if he is ready to go all the way. In principle destabilisation is necessary in order to receive a quasi-lawful pretext to cancel elections, to prolong his reign via a low voter turnout, to repress political competitors, and to establish a dictatorship.

Today such a move is possible in Ukraine – neither the Americans, nor Europeans, nor Russia will start to interfere with the infighting in the Ukrainian political terrarium. Regardless of who wins or who is killed, the situation won’t seriously change. But there is – albeit small – hope that the winner in the internecine Maidan fight will be able to stabilise the situation for some time and that Ukraine will last a little longer in a condition of half-collapse, without crossing the point of no return and without distracting global players from serious affairs by the need to solve the future of the people and territories that make up the Ukrainian state.

This hope, of course, is scanty, because no Ukrainian politician has any chance of quickly winning against all real and potential, present and future opponents. I.e., in principle their fight must develop into a long armed civil conflict that will only catalyse the disintegration process. But somehow all the same nobody can influence the processes ongoing in Ukraine. Or more precisely – nobody wants to. This is a rather expensive action that won’t bring any quick effect (it is possible to wait for positive results in about 15-20 years, or even longer), but will focus scarce resources on itself at a time when the global economy can shatter at any time, making the Great Depression look like minor unpleasantness.

This crisis will additionally stimulate civil conflicts in countries that have a weak economy and destroyed administrative-political structures – a category that Ukraine certainly belongs to. So Ukraine practically stands no chance of avoiding the transfer of the civil war to Kiev and Lvov. But until recently there was a possibility to choose the format of the civil conflict.

It could’ve developed into the format nationalists and “eurointegrators” (these same nationalists, but seen in side view only) against ethnic minorities; it could start in the form of clashes between private armies belonging to politicians and business, and also the formally state law enforcement structures controlled by them; it could also develop into an anti-oligarchical spontaneous uprising of the Nizy [a term coined by Lenin to describe the rank and file members of society, as opposed to the “Verkhi” – the higher-ups – ed], for the suppression of which this same nationalist illegal and legalised armed groups would be sent (the latter format would assume the spreading of the Donbass situation to all of Ukraine).

But Ukraine is the closest it has ever been to a civil war on religious grounds. Moreover, it is almost impossible to avoid this conflict. There are too many parties interested in further aggravating the situation, and not enough of those who understand what it can lead to as a result. In addition, a considerable part of the figures influencing the development of events is outside of Ukraine.

For the Greek Bartholomew from Istanbul who provoked this conflict, it is absolutely all the same how many Orthodox Christians in Ukraine will die and how many temples will be destroyed. The most important thing for him is to create his own exarchate on this territory, via which he plans to sharply elevate his influence in the orthodox world, which doesn’t seek to be subordinated to the wishes of the applicant for the orthodox papacy possessing a microscopic church that is subordinated to the Turks and the successor of uniates.

In the past the Roman throne (at the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) tried to spread its influence in Ukraine by fire and the sword, but now it doesn’t especially worry either about the price of its influence. Rome has well calculated that having opted for a split, having lost the trust and support of true Orthodox Christians, and being soiled by the blood of believers, Bartholomew will need support, and for the sake of this support he, once again, will quietly accept the union [with the Vatican – ed], having recognised the priority of the papacy.

The so-called Kiev Patriarchate can expect to win the fight against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC – MP) for the souls of believers only by force. And not even by simply seizing temples and monasteries, but by forcing the UOC-MP out of Ukraine in principle. It’s not a coincidence that they constantly call especially the Ukrainian church the church of the aggressor country and spread rumours about the UOC being allegedly controlled from Chisty Pereulok [the Patriarchate residence in Moscow – ed], and even directly from the Kremlin.

Poroshenko needs an undoubted victory over Russia on the eve of elections. For this purpose it also isn’t enough to create some autocephalous structure (a Ukrainian patriarchate or Kiev’s exarchate of the Istanbul patriarchate). He needs the liquidation of the UOC-MP. Russia can stop him only by force, but this will immediately give the chance to everyone (from Bartholomew to Poroshenko) to stage hysteria about the “aggressive interference of Moscow in the Ukrainian intra-church conflict”. If Russia doesn’t interfere, agitator-Russophobes will present it as the cowardice of the Kremlin and will declare an unambiguous victory for Poroshenko.

The recent planting of information about the storming of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra being set in motion testifies to the fact that forceful actions against UOC are being prepared. This false alarm allowed militants to study the work of the warning system of the Lavra’s defenders and to evaluate the possible timeframe that they can assemble in and the number of people capable of quickly gathering at the shrine’s walls. In addition, such information planting also works for a demobilisation effect. People start to get used to false news about a storm, and when this news turns out to be real, they will spend much more time trying to receive confirmation that it has indeed started.

The monks of the Pochayev monastery also appealed to their parishioners to be ready to defend the Lavra. It is clear that this statement was made by them on the basis of concrete information about the preparation of a seizure.

At the same time it should be kept in mind that the militants are not only armed, but they are also mobile, better organised, and enjoy state support. At the critical moment they can anticipate the arrival of believers and rush into the monasteries before defenders arrive. By the way, they have enough forces to attack several monasteries simultaneously, and logic hints that it is more effective to seize both Lavras simultaneously, because after the first one has been captured, believers will surely start to guard the second one on a constant basis.

Nevertheless, the militants can’t capture all the temples and monasteries simultaneously. Besides this, it is impossible to exclude that there will be attempts to re-capture what was seized, especially symbolic temples, cathedrals, monasteries, and Lavras. Already at this stage blood will be almost inevitably shed.

The so-called Patriarch of Kiev and All of Ukraine Filaret (Denisenko) never stopped at the sight of blood, and he won’t stop this time either. And he won’t be especially restrained. I will remind that it’s not an independent Kiev Patriarchate that Constantinople needs, but its own exarchate in Ukraine. Since the head of the UOC [Moscow Patriarchate – ed], the most blessed Onufry, took a hard-line and isn’t going to join the schismatics in a “local church”, Filaret will have to cleanse the hierarchy of the UOC. Moreover, he can’t postpone the beginning of active actions for a long time, because the actions of Bartholomew/Poroshenko already instigated the unification of the episcopate of the UOC [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] around Metropolitan Onufry. The influence of the autocephalist group inside the UOC [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] was undermined and continues to fall. Active actions are needed by supporters of autocephaly in order to change the situation in their own favor. They need at least a small split in the UOC-MP, which will not so much weaken the church as it will allow the Ukrainian state to both declare that all “patriotic” “responsible” faiths reached an agreement and to lay the blame for the impending massacre on the UOC-MP, Metropolitan Onufry, Patriarch Kirill, and Moscow.

After the moor (Denisenko) does his business, he, most likely, will be helped to leave this world. He won’t for anything in the world agree to be deranked from a patriarch to an exarch, and Rome and Constantinople have a vast experience in solving difficult issues with the help of the unexpected deaths of high-ranking church hierarches, including the Popes. The death of a Filaret (Denisenko) who has compromised himself with bloodshed will hardly provoke a strong reaction in society, and he is already elderly – in January, 2019 he will turn 90.

The next to leave without being elected will be Poroshenko, and Bartholomew will become alone on the glade that was cleared for him by his accomplices. Well, and after this the ball will be in the Vatican’s court. I don’t know how much time will be needed to induce Constantinople to a union, but Popes know how to wait.

As we can see, in all cases everything rests on the fact that the majority of the characters of the approaching tragedy can’t wait, they need to resolve the issue with the UOC-MP (I emphasise, not with “Tomos” and not with an autocephalous local church, but with the destruction of the UOC-MP) before Poroshenko’s elections [the 2019 elections, which he tries to shape in his favour – ed]. At the same time, neither Filaret nor Poroshenko, by all accounts, understand that the Patriarch of Phanar is going to use them and dispose of them – and, perhaps, for some of them this will mean exiting life.

They can solve their problems (the problems that they think are theirs) in a short period of time (less than half a year) only by force. At the same time, if Filaret (Denisenko) most likely imagines what big bloodshed this matter stipulates, Poroshenko, by all accounts, is sure that he will succeed to solve this problem, albeit via violence, but without victims. And it’s unlikely that someone will tell him what he pushes the country towards.

Clashes on religious grounds become almost inevitable because they are in the general course of Poroshenko’s destabilisation policy, they are favorable to the majority of the characters playing on the side of Kiev. Poroshenko doesn’t understand just how dangerous (including for himself personally) the game he started is. Autocephalists have no time to stop and sensibly assess the situation in which they unambiguously losing.


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