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Novichok nerve agent sequel: UK Home Secretary blames it on Russia (Video)

Here come the ‘Russians did it’ allegations…

Alex Christoforou

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Four months to the day after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal the UK government and its mainstream media mouthpieces are launching a massive blame game and diplomatic crisis once again directed towards Russia.

Novichok has now been identified as the culprit in the hospitalization of an Amesbury, UK couple.

All of this has suddenly, and conveniently, unfolded as Russia hosts a massively successful World Cup, and as US President Donald Trump prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in two weeks time on July 16th in Helsinki, Finland.

As Zerohedge rightly frames the latest anti-Russian smear campaign…”And here come the ‘Russians did it’ allegations…”

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the substance which has left two people critically ill in Amesbury was nerve agent Novichok.

The same agent that was allegedly used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal just a few miles away (who miraculously survived the ‘deadly’ nerve agent along with his daughter).

So why are “the Russians” now poisoning some random – non-former-Russian spies – British people?

One can only wonder at the timing of this second seemingly random poisoning with a deadly nerve agent coming so close to President Trump’s scheduled summit with President Putin.

Watch the video below to see how UK propaganda is developed…first by creating the connecting thread between the victims (novichok poisoning, four months removed), and then rolling out the government ministers, this time not discredited buffoon Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, but Home Secretary Sajid Javid leading the “blame Russia – blame Putin” charge.

Never mind the fact that just a few miles up the street from the location of both nerve agent attacks is Porton Downs, a chemical weapons factory that manufactures…you guessed it, NOVICHOK.

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Via RT

Two people, this time a British couple in their 40s with no link to Russian intelligence, were affected by a chemical substance on Saturday. Four days later, the UK’s counter-terrorism chief said the chemical that hit them was the same that sent former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, into a coma in early March. Back then, it took mere hours for the UK government to pin the blame on Moscow and unleash a massive diplomatic offensive together with its allies. Moscow, still waiting for compelling evidence to be produced, has been shut out of the investigation, and it has raised a number of questions about the poisoning – none of which have been answered.

Linking the two poisonings “is clearly a line of enquiry” for UK investigators, but the new incident doesn’t look likely to answer any of those concerns either.

Location, location, location

The new victims, 45-year-old Charlie Rowley and his 44-year-old girlfriend Dawn Sturgess were discovered in Amesbury, some 12 km (7 miles) north of Salisbury. Both scenes, though, are located around Porton Down, which houses a secretive government chemical lab.

Porton Down has been a crucial part of the Skripal case investigation. It was there that the chemical agent was identified as Novichok in both cases. Back in March, UK officials cited this as proof that the substance came from Russia – only to later be contradicted by the lab’s chief executive, who said they weren’t really able to verify the agent’s origins.

As for the location of the new scene relative to the old one, 12 km doesn’t seem like an improbably large distance. Plus, a friend of the victims said the couple had been to Salisbury before they fell ill. The UK Home Secretary’s working theory is that the exposure was accidental, which begs the question: how would that be possible after four months and a massive clean-up operation? Also, why were there only two random people in the whole 12km radius that were affected?

Curious timing

Investigators say it’s unclear if the supposed Novichok came from the same batch that poisoned the Skripals in March. But, according to experts, the nerve agents of the Novichok family lose their potency very quickly, which makes it unlikely that a trace powerful enough had survived for four months to strike again at this particular moment.

And the moment is significant for two reasons – two events key to Russia’s international image. One is the hugely successful FIFA World Cup, where the English team just secured a quarter-final spot. British fans seem to be enjoying themselves in Russia, and berating British politicians and media for their efforts to scare them away from the event.

The other is the preparations for a summit between US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. A date and a place for the meeting – Helsinki, Finland, July 16 – were set just last week, and a possible rapprochement between the two rival superpowers seems to be keeping British officials up at night.

Nobody died, again

One of the key questions asked back in March was: why did the Skripals survive if they were indeed exposed to a military-grade nerve agent? While UK officials peddle Novichok as a deadly nerve agent manufactured by the Soviets, claiming its recent use was the first chemical attack in Europe since World War Two, it appears to have a surprisingly low lethality rate.

A friend of the couple described Rowley becoming increasingly ill over the course of the day, before finally being taken to the hospital. There, the supposedly deadly Novichok gave doctors enough time to treat the couple for a completely different diagnosis: the medics initially believed that the couple had taken contaminated drugs (Rowley is a registered heroin addict). Samples from the two were only sent to Porton Down on Monday, two days after they were admitted.

Back in March, the Skripals were similarly discovered slipping in and out of consciousness on a park bench. They were also treated for an opioid overdose at first, before the diagnosis switched to nerve agent poisoning. Both ultimately survived and have now been discharged from the hospital.

Analysts have repeatedly questioned the apparent low lethality of the supposed “military-grade nerve agent.” Russian officials, as well, have said that if such a deadly substance had indeed been used, survival would be impossible.

British officials are still investigating the incident. However, this time – now that Novichok has been brought up – they seem less inclined to point fingers, even as England fans frolic in Russia and Theresa May’s handling of Brexit continues to divide the public.

The Guardian tweeted…

“We can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent novichok,” say UK police. “The same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal.”

The BBC had this live coverage of the UK’s Home Secretary getting the “Russia Did It” propaganda rolling…

Home Secretary @sajidjavid: Russia must explain “reckless” Novichok poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, after nerve agent linked to new victims in Amesbury

Craig Murray delves a bit deeper into the novichok Amesbury Mystery…

We are continually presented with experts by the mainstream media who will validate whatever miraculous property of “novichok” is needed to fit in with the government’s latest wild anti-Russian story. Tonight Newsnight wheeled out a chemical weapons expert to tell us that “novichok” is “extremely persistent” and therefore that used to attack the Skripals could still be lurking potent on a bush in a park.

Yet only three months ago we had this example of scores from the MSM giving the same message which was the government line at that time:

“Professor Robert Stockman, of the University of Nottingham, said traces of nerve agents did not linger. He added: ‘These agents react with water to degrade, including moisture in the air, and so in the UK they would have a very limited lifetime. This is presumably why the street in Salisbury was being hosed down as a precaution – it would effectively destroy the agent.’”

In fact, rain affecting the “novichok” on the door handle was given as the reason that the Skripals were not killed. But now the properties of the agent have to fit a new narrative, so they transmute again.

It keeps happening. Do you remember when Novichok was the most deadly of substances, many times more powerful than VX or Sarin, and causing death in seconds? But then, when that needed to be altered to fit the government’s Skripal story, they found scientists to explain that actually no, it was pretty slow acting, absorbed gradually through the skin, and not all that deadly.

Scientists are an interesting bunch. More than willing to ascribe whatever properties fit the government’s ever more implausible stories, in exchange for an MSM appearance fee, 5 minutes of fame and the fond hope of a research grant.

According to the Daily Telegraph today, the unfortunate Charlie Rowley is a registered heroin addict, and if true Occam’s Razor would indicate that is a rather more likely reason for his present state than an inexplicably persistent weaponised nerve agent.

If it is however true that two separate attacks have been carried out with “novichok” a few miles either side of Porton Down, where “novichok” is synthesised and stored for “testing purposes”, what does Occam’s razor suggest is the source of the nerve agent? A question not one MSM journalist seems to have asked themselves tonight.

I am slightly puzzled by the picture the media are trying to paint of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess as homeless, unemployed addicts. The Guardian and Sky News both state that they were unemployed, yet Charlie was living in a very new house in Muggleton Road, Amesbury, which is pretty expensive. According to Zoopla homes range up to £430,000 and the cheapest ones are £270,000. They are all new build, on a new estate, which is still under construction.

Both Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess still have active facebook pages and one of Charlie’s handful of “Likes” is a mortgage broker, which is consistent with his brand new house. They don’t give mortgages to unemployed heroin addicts, and not many of those live in smart new “executive housing” estates. Both Charlie and Dawn appear from their facebook pages to be very well socialised, with Dawn having many friends in the teaching profession. Even if she has been homeless for a period as reported, she is plainly very much part of the community.

Naturally, there is no mention in all the reports today of MI6’s Pablo Miller, who remains the subject of a D notice. I wonder if he knows Rowley and Sturgess, living in the same community? It should be recalled that Salisbury may be a city, but its population is only 45,000.

The most important thing is of course that Charlie and Dawn recover. But tonight, even at this early stage, as with the entire Skripal saga, the message the security services are seeking to give out does not add up. Mark Urban’s piece for Newsnight tonight was simply disgusting; it did not even pretend to be more than a propaganda piece on behalf of the security services, who had told Urban (as he said) that Yulia Skripal’s phone “could have been” tapped by the Russians and they “might even” have listened to her conversations through the microphone in her telephone. That was the “new evidence” that the Russians were behind everything.

As a former British Ambassador I can tell you with certainty that indeed the Russians might have tapped Yulia, but GCHQ most definitely would have. It is, after all, their job, and billions of our taxes go into it. If tapping of phones is seriously presented as evidence of intent to murder, the British government must be very murderous indeed.

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Vera GottliebAkitRegulaMychal Arnoldandyoldlabour Recent comment authors
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Vera Gottlieb
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Vera Gottlieb

But of course it is blamed on Russia…why even try to get out of the habit of lying.

Akit
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Akit

Everyone I know is disgusted with not only our Government but the whole Parliament with yet another incredibly stupid attempt to befoul Russia and President Putin. It shows the contempt they have for British people, the only problem being, that many of the British people are thick enough to actually believe this crap as witness by the jelly- kneed snowflake English football fans shaking in their shoes at the thought of being killed if they went to Russia! Isn’t it about time that Putin sued them for defamation? It is so embarrassing for us to witness this.

Regula
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Regula

This is funny. Theresa May needs to vilify Russia for economy reasons. She is terrified of the Trump and Putin meeting. Ironically, this is not a false flag on Putin, this is a false flag on Trump! So he would have to cancel the head of state meeting with Putin on July 16. It gets curiouser and curiouser. One thing is though beyond any doubt: Theresa May is at the end of her rope. She clearly has nothing to offer to the UK people except these nonsense stories to keep some boogey man Russia preserved as excuse for her utter… Read more »

Mychal Arnold
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Mychal Arnold

Ahahaha! Laughing stage. They are some really stupid in Britain.

andyoldlabour
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andyoldlabour

The whole sordid episode is so ridiculous, and I think it has been created to push the vital Brexit negotiations and the possible demise of Theresa May, plus the UK’s role in rendition and torture under the carpet.

Thraxite
Guest
Thraxite

Man, I wish my police service had the resources of these British. I mean they have so many resources they can identify a substance like this and say it is exactly like the previous in just 3-4 days, when it takes the OPCW 4 weeks to analyse substances. Why aren’t the Brits sharing this revolutionary technology that identifies pathogens, 7 times faster than the best the resto of the entire world can do?

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OPEC Plus: Putin’s move to control energy market with Saudi partnership (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 150.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss OPEC Plus and the growing partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which aims to reshape the energy market, and cement Russia’s leadership role in global oil and gas supply.

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Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ WILL survive

The Express UK reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia’s ‘long-term relationship’ will not only survive, but grow, regardless of geopolitical turmoil and internal Saudi scandal…as the energy interests between both nations bind them together.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin’s Russia have a “long-term relationship” which is strategically beneficial to both of them, and which underlines their position as the world’s most influential oil producers, alongside the United States, an industry expert has said.

Following concerns about too much oil flooding the market, Saudi Arabia on Sunday performed an abrupt u-turn by deciding to reduce production by half a million barrels a day from December.

This put the Middle Eastern country at odds with Russia, which said it was no clear whether the market would be oversupplied next year, with market analysts predicting the country’s oil producing companies likely to BOOST proaction by 300,000 barrels per day.

But IHS Markit vice chairman Daniel Yergin said the decision was unlikely to jeopardise the relationship between the two allies.

The Saudis have faced significant international criticism in the wake of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Speaking to CNBC, Mr Yergin made it clear that Moscow and Riyadh would continue to be closely aligned irrespective of external factors.

He explained: “I think it’s intended to be a long-term relationship and it started off about oil prices but you see it taking on other dimensions, for instance, Saudi investment in Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Russian investment in Saudi Arabia.

“I think this is a strategic relationship because it’s useful to both countries.”

Saudi Arabia and Russia are close, especially as a result of their pact in late 2016, along with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers, to curb output by 1.8 million barrels per day in order to prevent prices dropping too far – but oil markets have changed since then, largely as a result.

The US criticised OPEC, which Saudi Arabia is the nominal leader of, after prices rose.

Markets have fluctuated in recent weeks as a result of fears over a possible drop in supply, as a result of US sanctions on Iran, and an oversupply, as a result of increased production by Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, which have seen prices fall by about 20 percent since early October.

Saudi Arabia has pumped 10.7 million barrels per day in October, while the figure for Russiaand the US was 11.4 million barrels in each case.

Mr Yergin said: “It’s the big three, it’s Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US, this is a different configuration in the oil market than the traditional OPEC-non-OPEC one and so the world is having to adjust.”

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley told CNBC: “The OPEC-plus agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia and coalition is a lot stronger than people speculate.

“I think Russia doesn’t have the ability to turn on and off big fields which can happen in the Middle East.

“But I fully expect there to be coordination to try to keep the oil price within a certain fairway.”

Markets rallied by two percent on Monday off the back of the , which it justified by citing uncertain global oil growth and associated oil demand next year.

It also suggested  granted on US sanctions imposed on Iran which have been granted to several countries including China and Japan was a reason not to fear a decline in supply.

Also talking to CNBC, Russia’s Oil Minister Alexander Novak indicated a difference of opinion between Russia and the Saudis, saying it was too soon to cut production, highlighting a lot of volatility in the oil market.

He added: “If such a decision is necessary for the market and all the countries are in agreement, I think that Russia will undoubtedly play a part in this.

“But it’s early to talk about this now, we need to look at this question very carefully.”

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Nigel Farage lashes out at Angela Merkel, as Chancellor attends EU Parliament debate (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 17.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Nigel Farage’s blistering speech, aimed squarely at Angela Merkel, calling out the German Chancellor’s disastrous migrant policy, wish to build an EU army, and Brussels’ Cold War rhetoric with Russia to the East and now the United States to the West.

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The Ukrainian President Signs a Pact With Constantinople – Against the Ukrainian Church

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via Strategic Culture:


Increasingly tragic and violent events are taking their toll on the plight of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine . After several fights over control of the church’s property, prohibitions and blacklists are starting to spread, affecting respected church figures coming from Russia to Ukraine. The latest news is that the head of the Moscow Theological Academy, Archbishop Amvrosyi Yermakov, was deported from Ukraine back to Russia. Amvrosyi’s name popped up on the black list of Russian citizens who are not deemed “eligible to visit” Ukraine. Obviously, this happened right before his plane landed in Zhulyany, Kiev’s international airport. After a brief arrest, Amvrosyi was put on a plane and sent back to Moscow. This is not the first such humiliation of the Orthodox Church and its priests that has taken place since the new pro-Western regime came to power in Kiev in 2014. Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has been declared persona non grata throughout Ukraine since 2014. That decision was made by humiliatingly low-level officials. A department within the Ukrainian ministry of culture published a ruling stating that Kirill’s visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kiev “would not be desirable.”

Since the ancestors of modern Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians were first baptized in 988 in Kiev, the Patriarchs of the Russian Church have never had problems visiting Kiev, the birthplace of their church. Not even under the Bolsheviks did such prohibitions exist. So, for Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church to be denied permission to visit Kiev can only be compared to a possible prohibition against the pope visiting Rome. Since 2014, there have also been several criminal cases filed against the priests of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC MP) because they have called the hostilities in eastern Ukraine a “civil war” and have discouraged the faithful from supporting that war. This has been interpreted by the Ukrainian state authorities as a call for soldiers to desert the army.

Why Poroshenko’s meeting with Bartholomew is ominous

Despite the fact that the UOC MP has become used to all sorts of trouble since 2014, things have been looking even worse for the canonical church lately, as 2018 draws to a close. In early November 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko broke the wall of separation between church and state in the most overt manner possible — he signed “an agreement on cooperation and joint action” between Ukraine and the so called Constantinople Patriarchate, the oldest institution of Orthodox Christianity, which is now based in Turkish Istanbul.

Rostislav Pavlenko, an aide to Poroshenko, wrote on his Facebook page that the agreement (not yet published) is premised on the creation of a new “autocephalous” Orthodox Church of Ukraine — a development that the official, existing Orthodox Churches in Russia and Ukraine view with foreboding as a “schism” that they have done all they can to prevent. Why? Because Poroshenko’s regime, which came to power via a violent coup in Kiev in 2014 on a wave of public anti-Russian sentiment, may try to force the canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine to merge with other, non-canonical institutions and to surrender to them church buildings, including the famous monasteries in Kiev and Pochai, as well as other property.

President Poroshenko was visibly happy to sign the document — the contents of which have not yet been made public — on cooperation between the Ukrainian state and the Constantinople Patriarchate, in the office of Bartholomew, the head of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Poroshenko smiled and laughed, obviously rejoicing over the fact that the Constantinople Patriarchate is already embroiled in a scandalous rift with the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian sister church over several of Bartholomew’s recent moves. Bartholomew’s decision to “lift” the excommunication from two of Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic “priests,” in addition to Bartholomew’s declaration that the new church of Ukraine will be under Constantinople’s direct command — these moves were just not acceptable for the canonical Orthodox believers in Russia and Ukraine. Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), as well as Onufriy, the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine, are protesting loudly, viewing this situation as a breach of two basic principles. First of all, the Ukrainian state has interfered in the church’s affairs, asking Constantinople to give the Ukrainian church “autocephaly,” which that church never requested. Second, Constantinople itself has interfered in the affairs of two autonomous national churches, the Russian and the Ukrainian. In the eyes of Ukrainian and Russian clergy, Bartholomew is behaving like the Roman pope and not as a true Orthodox leader who respects the autonomy and self-rule of the separate, national Orthodox Churches.

The Russian President sympathizes with the believers’ pain

Two days before Poroshenko made his trip to Istanbul, Russian president Vladimir Putin broke with his usual reserve when commenting on faith issues to bitterly complain about the pain which believers in Russia and Ukraine have experienced from the recent divisions within the triangle of Orthodoxy’s three historic capitals — Constantinople, Kiev, and Moscow.

“Politicking in such a sensitive area as religion has always had grave consequences, first and foremost for the people who engaged in this politicking,” Putin said, addressing the World Congress of Russian Compatriots, an international organization that unites millions of ethnic and cultural Russians from various countries, including Ukraine. Himself a practicing Orthodox believer, Putin lauded Islam and Judaism, while at the same time complaining about the plight of Orthodox believers in Ukraine, where people of Orthodox heritage make up more than 80% of the population and where the church has traditionally acted as a powerful “spiritual link” with Russia.

Despite his complaints about “politicking,” Putin was careful not to go into the details of why exactly the state of affairs in Ukraine is so painful for Orthodox believers. That situation was explained by Patriarch Kirill. After many months of tense silence and an unsuccessful visit to Barthlomew’s office in Istanbul on August 31, Kirill has been literally crying for help in the last few weeks, saying he was “ready to go anywhere and talk to anyone” in order to prevent the destruction of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

Politics with a “mystical dimension”

Kirill said the attack against the Orthodox Church in Ukraine “had not only a political, but also a mystical dimension.” Speaking in more earthly terms, there is a danger that the 1,000-year-old historical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) — which now owns 11,392 church buildings, 12,328 parishes, and two world-famous monasteries in Ukraine — will be dissolved. The roots of the UOC MP go back to the pre-Soviet Russian Empire and even further back to the era of Kievan Rus, the proto-state of the Eastern Slavs in the tenth-twelfth centuries AD, when the people who would later become Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians were adopting Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. It is by far the biggest church in Ukraine, as Mikhail Denisenko’s non-canonical “alternative” church has only 3,700 parishes that include church buildings (fewer than a third of what is owned by the UOC-MP, despite the fact that Denisenko enjoys official support from the Ukrainian state).

What many Russian and Ukrainian believers fear is that the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew will eventually grant Kiev what is being called autocephaly. In that event, the UOC-MP may be forced to merge with two other, non-canonical churches in Ukraine that have no apostolic liaison. The apostolic succession of the UOC-MP consists in the historical fact that its first bishops were ordained by medieval bishops from Constantinople, who had in turn been ordained by Christ’s disciples from ancient Israel. Apostolic succession is crucial for the Orthodox Church, where only bishops can ordain new priests and where the church’s connection to the first Christians is reflected in many ways, including in the clergy’s attire.

Metropolitan Hilarion (his secular name is Grigory Alfeyev), the Russian church’s chief spokesman on questions of schism and unity, accused the patriarch of contributing to the schism by officially “lifting” the excommunication from Ukraine’s most prominent schismatic church leader — the defrocked former bishop Mikhail Denisenko. That clergyman stands to gain most from the “autocephaly” promised to Poroshenko by Patriarch Bartholomew. A hierarchical Orthodox Church is considered to have autocephalous status, as its highest bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has stated that for Ukraine to be granted autocephaly from Istanbul, this would mean a complete “reformatting” of the country’s religious status quo and the severing of all links to Orthodox Russia and its “demons.”. Most likely, the new “united” church won’t be headed by the UOC MP’s Metropolitan, but by Mikhail Denisenko, who was excommunicated by both the UOC MP and the Russian church back in 1997 and with whom real Orthodox priests can only serve against their will and against the church’s internal rules.

Constantinople’s first dangerous moves

On October 11, 2018, the Constantinople Patriarchate made its first step towards granting autocephaly by repealing its own decision of 1686 that gave the Moscow Patriarch primacy over the Kiev-based Metropolitan. This 17th-century decision reflected the political reality of the merger between the states of Russia and Ukraine and established some order in the matters of church administration. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow gave the Ukrainian church complete independence in financial and administrative matters, but the two churches retained their cherished “spiritual unity.” “Constantinople’s decision is aimed at destroying that unity,” the ROC’s Patriarch Kirill explained. “We can’t accept it. That is why our Holy Synod made the decision to end eucharistic communication with the Constantinople Patriarchate.”

How Moscow “excommunicated” Bartholomew

The end of eucharistic communication means that the priests of the two patriarchates (based in Moscow and Istanbul) won’t be able to hold church services together. It will be maintained as long as the threat of autocephaly continues. The Western mainstream media, however, interpreted this decision by the Russian church as a unilateral aggressive act. The NYT and the British tabloid press wrote that it simply reveals Putin’s “desperation” at not being able to keep Ukraine’s religious life under control.

However, Patriarch Bartholomew seems undeterred by the protests from the Russian faithful and the majority of Ukraine’s believers. Bartholomew said in a recent statement that Russia should just follow the example of Constantinople, which once granted autocephaly to the churches of the Balkan nations. Bartholomew’s ambassadors in Kiev do not shy away from communicating with the self-declared “Patriarch” Filaret (Mikhail Denisenko’s adopted religious name from back when he was the UOC MP’s Metropolitan prior to his excommunication in 1997). For true Orthodox believers, any communication with Denisenko has been forbidden since 1992, the year when he founded his own so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Unfortunately, Denisenko enjoys the full support of Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and recently the US State Department began encouraging Denisenko, by giving its full support to Ukraine’s autocephaly.

The lifting of Denisenko’s excommunication by Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul both upset and embittered the Orthodox believers in both Ukraine and Moscow, since Denisenko was excommunicated by a joint decision of the Russian church and the UOC MP in 1997, after a five-year wait for his return to the fold of the mother church. So, by undoing that decision, Constantinople has interfered in the canonical territory of both the Ukrainian and the Russian churches.

The UOC-MP protested, accusing not only Patriarch Bartholomew, but also the Ukrainian state of interfering in the church’s affairs. “We are being forced to get involved in politics. The politicians do not want Christ to run our church; they want to do it themselves,” said Metropolitan Onufriy (Onuphrius), the head of the UOC-MP, in an interview with PravMir, an Orthodox website. “Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been independent. Our church did not ask for autocephaly, because we already have independence. We have our own Synod (church council) and our own church court. Decisions are made by a congress of bishops and priests from all over Ukraine. We have financial and administrative independence, so autocephaly for us will be a limitation, not an expansion of our rights.”

Poroshenko’s premature jubilation

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Poroshenko did not conceal his jubilation about Constantinople’s moves. “This is a victory of good over evil, light over darkness,” Poroshenko said when the news about the lifting of Denisenko’s excomnmunication came from Istanbul in early October.

Poroshenko said he wanted a “united Orthodox Church” for his country, and he openly pressured Patriarch Bartholomew to provide autocephaly to Kiev during his visits to Istanbul in the spring of 2018 and in November of the same year. Meanwhile, Denisenko said that the provision of autocephaly would mean the immediate dispossession of the UOC MP. “This Russian church (UOC MP) will have to cede control of its church buildings and famous monasteries to the new Ukrainian church, which will be ours,” Denisenko was quoted by Ukrainian media as saying. “These monasteries have been owned by the state since Soviet times, and the state gave them to the Russian church for temporary use. Now the state will appoint our communities of believers as the new guardians of this heritage.” Denisenko also made a visit to the US, where he met Undersecretary of State Wess Mitchell, obtaining from him America’s active support for the creation of a “unified” Ukrainian church.

There is still a chance to prevent the schism from occurring. Poroshenko’s presidential aide, Rostislav Pavlenko, made it clear on Tuesday that the actual “tomos” (a letter from the Constantinople Patriarchate allowing the creation of an autocephalous church) will be delivered only IN RESPONSE to a request from a “unifying convention” that represents all of Ukraine’s Orthodox believers in at least some sort of formal manner. This new convention will have to declare the creation of a new church and elect this church’s official head. Only then will Constantinople be able to give that person the cherished “tomos.”

Since the UOC-MP has made it very clear that it won’t participate in any such convention, the chances of the smooth transition and easy victory over the “Muscovite believers” that Poroshenko wants so badly are quite slim. There are big scandals, big fights, and big disappointments ahead.

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