Connect with us

RussiaFeed

News

Sports

The Olympic betrayal of Russia

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

27 Views

In the first half of 2016, shortly before the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Professor Richard McLaren at the request of WADA published his preliminary report on sports doping in Russia.

No one – least of all the Russian authorities – disputed that there had been a significant problem with doping in Russia.  The Russian authorities moreover singled out the person who they said was the prime suspect – Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov – the head of RUSADA, Russia’s principal WADA affiliated anti-doping laboratory.

Rodchenkov had come under suspicion of involvement in doping before.  Though he had previously been cleared of involvement in doping, after the Winter Olympics in 2014 in Sochi in Russia he fell under suspicion again.  He fled abroad to the United States, where he is now the subject of a witness protection programme.

Though Rodchenkov’s deep involvement in the doping which had taken place in Russian sport was universally accepted, Professor McLaren nonetheless made him his star witness.

On Rodchenkov’s evidence and without first consulting with the Russian authorities McLaren declared that the doping amongst Russian athletes which had taken place during the Sochi Olympics was the result of a massive state sponsored conspiracy organised by the Russian government and carried out by Rodchenkov in collaboration with the FSB.  McLaren moreover said that this had been proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.

To that end, reversing the burden of proof, McLaren campaigned for all Russian athletes to be prevented from participating in the Rio Olympics irrespective of whether there was actual evidence against them of doping or not.

In the event, though several sports federations including crucially the International Association of Athletics Federations (“IAAF”) did prevent Russian athletes affiliated to them from participating in the Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee refused to impose a blanket ban.

The International Paralympic Committee on the strength of McLaren’s report however did so, preventing Russian paralympic athletes from participating in the Paralympic Games in Rio.

A few months later, after the Rio Olympics were over, Professor McLaren published the complete version of his report.

This broke no new ground and made the same allegations that his preliminary report had made before.

The International Olympic Committee on the eve of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang has now gone a step further.

It has banned Russian athletes from competing in the Winter Olympics under their own flag, is preventing them from participating in the Opening Ceremony, and has prohibited the playing of the Russian national anthem if they win gold medals.

Instead selected Russian athletes may attend the Winter Olympics but only if invited by the International Olympic Committee to do so, and can only compete as ‘athletes from Russia’ under the Olympic flag.

In addition a number of Russian sports officials including the former Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko are banned for life from any involvement in the Olympic Games, whilst the Russian Olympic Committee – one of the founder Committees of the Olympic Movement – has had its membership suspended.

What are the grounds for this extraordinary set of decisions?  I ask this question because from a legal and sports point of view I do not understand them.

As I have always understood it, the Olympic Movement seeks to be inclusive and non-discriminatory.  Whilst it is obviously right and proper to ban athletes from participating in the Olympic Games if they have been found guilty of drugs taking, surely if they have not been found guilty of drugs taking they should compete in the Games under their own flag on the same terms as everyone else?

If the Russian Olympic Committee is to be suspended surely that should be because its members have been found guilty of something?

If Russian government officials like Vitaly Mutko are to be banned from the Olympic Movement for life, then that too should be because they have been found to be guilty of something?

I ask these questions because the decision of the International Olympic Committee purports to be based on an independent investigation of the claims made by Professor McLaren in his two reports carried out by former Swiss President and Federal Council member Samuel Schmid.

Schmid’s report however not only fails to support the allegations of a gigantic government organised doping conspiracy in Russia, but it actually confirms that there is no evidence of such a conspiracy in Russia.  Moreover it also confirms that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing either by the Russian Olympic Committee or by a number of the people who have been banned.

Schmid’s report can be read here.

It turns out that the entirety of the evidence relied upon by Professor McLaren to support his claim of a gigantic government organised doping conspiracy in Russia is apart from Rodchenkov’s unsupported testimony a number of emails which passed between Rodchenkov and his co-conspirators and which were provided to Professor McLaren by Rodchenkov himself.

The problem is that the emails do not show the involvement of any senior government officials in the doping conspiracy.

Not a single email originates from a senior government official.  One official of the Sports Ministry – Vice-Minister Yury Nagornykh – was copied into some of the emails, though Schmid admits that he himself wrote none of them.

Schmid concludes that the fact Nagornykh was copied into some of the emails means that he “must have known” about Rodchenkov’s scheme.

Since however Schmid does not provide copies of the emails and hints that he may not have even read some of them, it is impossible to accept this claim with any confidence

In all these email exchanges produced, many names in the address bar (from, to and cc) have been blacked out by the IP in order to protect the confidentiality of these persons.  For this reason, Professor Richard McLaren was unable to share with the IOC DC the original messages.  As a consequence, the IOC DC is not able to confirm who was really aware of the information exchanged in the various emails.

(bold italics added)

It is quite clear from these words that none of the individuals who have now been penalised on the strength of the emails have been shown them either.

In other words they have been condemned on the strength of evidence they were not shown and which they were not therefore in a position to comment on or refute.

That is a shocking offence against due process, and I am astonished that it is happening and no-one is complaining about it.

One person who even McLaren now admits was not part of the email chain – and against whom no evidence of involvement in the doping scheme therefore exists – is Russia’s former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

Here is what Schmid has to say about him

In one exchange of emails between Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov and Mr. Alexey Velikodniy regarding a footballer, Mr. Velikodniy mentioned that “the decision is with VL for consideration and approval”.  This single reference could not be considered as sufficient to demonstrate the personal involvement of the then Minister of Sport.

(bold italics added)

Even McLaren himself now admits (though very grudgingly) that there is no evidence against Mutko.  His whole case against Mutko it turns out is based entirely on a guess

Your question about Mr. Mutko was: did he know?  information is provided to the ministry and like any hierarchical organisation it flows upwards in the organisational structure.  So I would think that the information came to him through the ministry.  But it was the deputy minister (Nagornykh – AM) who was in charge of the process I described.  I don’t have any direct evidence as to whether he knew or didn’t know.  I have met with him, I have discussed the matter with him, he didn’t indicate that he knew.

(bold italics added)

Not only is McLaren’s case against Mutko based entirely on a guess, but it is a guess which is completely unwarranted.

Given that Rodchenkov and his associates were engaging in a criminal conspiracy would the information about it really flow effortlessly up the organisational structure of the ministry until it reached Mutko himself?  The only circumstance where that would happen would be if Mutko and the entire staff of the ministry were also part of the conspiracy.  That obviously is what McLaren believes, but of which he admits he has no evidence.

The fact that McLaren believes such a thing without having any evidence for it incidentally exposes the extent of his bias.  It also shows why his entire theory is not just unwarranted but almost certainly wrong.

Most of the rest of the Schmid report is concerned with the evidence of the existence of extensive and organised doping before and during the Sochi Olympics in Russia.  Since no one least of all the Russian authorities deny that this took place, it is not obvious why this information has been provided in such detail.

What however of the individual at the centre of this scandal – RUSADA’s doping mastermind and McLaren’s key witness Dr. Rodchenkov – what does Schmid have to say about him?

It turns out that Rodchenkov not only was instrumental in carrying out the doping but that he did at least some of it for money

One of the major actors identified was Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, director of the Moscow Laboratory; he was at the heart of the doping activities and of the positive drugs test cover-up; he had direct access within the Ministry of Sport to request funds for the laboratory equipment.  The Report showed that in his position he was not only accepting but also requesting money in order to execute the concealment of positive tests of Russian athletics athletes.  Furthermore, he admitted during an interview to have intentionally destroyed 1,417 samples at the end of 2014 in order to limit the extent of the WADA’s audit, of which he was previously informed by WADA.

(bold italics added)

In other words Rodchenkov was not just a cheat but was corrupt as well.

Elsewhere Schmid discusses how Rodchenkov insinuated himself into the international anti-doping system

Within the evolution of the system, the analysis of the evidence as well as the movie Icarus, shows that Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov played a key role.  Due to his scientific abilities he was able to set-up detection methods to improve the fight against doping, to publish scientific articles and participate to experts’ observatory programmes, winning so a great international credibility.  This enabled him on one hand, as an anti-doping expert, to gain access to the international expertise and strategy, in particular, during the Olympic Games London 2012, which helped him to contribute to the development of the specific system to be operational during the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014.

Yet this is the corrupt and scheming individual whose largely uncorroborated claims of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy McLaren accepts as true.

Schmid – somewhat grudgingly but nonetheless conclusively – admits that there is in fact no evidence of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia

….the independent and impartial evidence do not allow the IOC DC to establish with certitude either who initiated or who headed this scheme.

On many occasions, reference was made on the involvement at the Minister of Sport’s level, but no indication, independent or impartial evidence appeared to corroborate any involvement or knowledge at a higher level of the State.

Elsewhere Schmid admits that the doping scheme in Russia did not involve all Russian athletes – a sure indication by the way that it was not government organised or state sponsored – and that it was different from the doping scheme in the former German Democratic Republic, which of course was both government organised and state sponsored.

Given that this is so, why is former Sports Minister Mutko against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists being banned from participating in the Olympic Games for the rest of his life?

Why is the Russian Olympic Committee being suspended, when no evidence of the involvement of any of its members in the doping scheme exists?

The IOC DC notes that neither the IC’s nor the IP’s Reports mentioned the participation of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the system.  No findings appeared during the IOC DC’s investigation to contradict these statements.

In order to justify the IOC’s actions against Mutko, the ROC and other Russian individuals and sports institutions against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists, Schmid comes up with a complicated theory of their legal responsibility for the doping scheme even though there is no evidence that they knew about it.

All I would say about that is that I have never heard of a case where individuals against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists and who must therefore be presumed to have acted at all times in good faith are punished because of a criminal conspiracy carried out by others of which there is no evidence they had any knowledge.

That truly is guilt by association, and it is wrong.

Right at the very start of the Russian Olympic Doping Scandal in an article for Sputnik dated 12th November 2015, I said that the right way forward was not to impose discriminatory and unlawful blanket bans on Russian athletes which ignored the presumption of innocence and which contradicted the humanitarian and inclusive principles of the Olympic Games, but to work with the Russians to ensure that anti-doping systems in Russia were made as strong as possible so that large scale doping of the sort organised by Dr. Rodchenkov could no longer take place

….it seems to me utterly wrong to ban athletes from competing simply because they are Russian.

That goes utterly against the humanitarian principles upon which the Olympics were founded. It is also contrary to the non-discriminatory principles in most national laws.

The Russian authorities are challenging some of the allegations — as it is their right to do — but look to be genuinely offering cooperation to help solve the problem.

For example they have offered to appoint a foreign specialist to head their laboratory. The right thing to do is not to impose a blanket ban but to work with the Russian authorities so that the problem can be solved.

That may involve bringing criminal charges and imposing individual bans on specific persons, barring them from involvement in international sports training and competition.

If that does not happen and a blanket ban on Russian athletes is imposed instead, then it seems to me that the world’s sporting bodies will not only have retreated from their ideals but will open themselves up to questions about what their real motives are.

‘Solving the problem’ in this way is exactly the approach the Russian authorities – who do not deny the existence of large scale doping problem in Russia – have taken.

The anti-doping systems now put in place in Russia are now universally acknowledged to be just about the best in the world.  Here is how Steve Scott, sports editor of the ITN news channel in Britain, describes them

A lot has changed at the Russia Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) in the past 18 months and, according to some close to this transformation, if you employ objective criteria, the Moscow laboratory is as good as it gets.

“The quality of testing and planning is very high.” a senior anti-doping source told me.

The Agency has doubled in size, has had its budget doubled too and is carrying out twice as many tests. It has also built up a team of 50 trained doping control officers, whereas before it had none. As for a much needed cultural shift, there has also been a significant changeover of staff; few remain who were immersed in the bad old ways of doing things.

Given that this is so and that there is now longer any possibility of Russian athletes engaging in a massive doping conspiracy in the coming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, why is action being taken to prevent them competing on the same basis as everyone else?

It turns out that WADA is refusing to certify RUSADA – Russia’s radically reorganised anti-doping laboratory – for no other reason than that the Russian authorities are refusing to accept the McLaren report.

Why however should the Russian authorities accept the McLaren report when McLaren’s claims of a massive government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia have been shown to have no evidence behind them?

Is it anyway right and proper to coerce someone into confessing a crime for which no evidence exists?  Is that not the action of a blackmailer or of a police state?  Is that the sort of behaviour the International Olympic Committee – guardian of the Olympic Movement and upholder of its ideals – wants to associate itself with?

In reality the decision of the International Olympic Committee to ban certain Russians from involvement in the Olympic Movement, to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee, and to allow only specially invited Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics and then only under the Olympic flag, has nothing to do either with sport or doping or the principles of legality.

It is entirely the product of politics, and the Russians are right to say it is.

Though this is the worst decision the International Olympic Committee has taken in its whole history, it is just possible that we may be approaching the end of this tawdry affair.

It seems that if the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang end without scandals then the Russian Olympic Committee will be readmitted to the Olympic Movement on the last day of the Games, allowing Russian athletes to celebrate the last day of the Games under their own flag.

Presumably that means that restrictions on the participation by Russian athletes in future Olympic Games will be lifted.

That presumably is why the Russian authorities are encouraging their athletes to participate in the PyeongChang Games under the Olympic flag, humiliating though they say they find it.

Whilst I understand this reasoning, I am not sure I share it.

An Olympic Movement capable of making such a grossly discriminatory and frankly unlawful decision is obviously no longer fit for purpose.

In light of this I think that the Russians and the many other national teams that must privately think this should now set about setting up their own alternative sports competitions, initially in parallel to those of the Olympic Movement but eventually as alternatives to them.

Since I doubt that this will be the last of these scandals that seems to me the only way forward.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

Published

on

Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

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

Published

on

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.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Russia’s Next Weapon: A Church

The Russian military plans to build a military church to bolster the spiritual values of its armed forces.

The Duran

Published

on

Authored by Michael Peck via The National Interest:


Meet Vladimir Putin’s newest weapon: a church.

The Russian military plans to build a military church to bolster the spiritual values of its armed forces. Construction will soon begin of the Main Church of the Armed Forces, to be erected in Patriot Park outside Moscow, according to Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, deputy defense minister and chief of the armed forces’ Main Military-Political Directorate, a new organization responsible for political education of the troops.

The “new church will be one more example of the people’s unity around the idea of patriotism, love, and devotion to our Motherland,” Kartapolov told Russian journalists.

To say the church, dubbed by some as the “Khaki Temple,” will have a martial air would be an understatement.

“The walls of the military church are really made in the color of the standard Russian missile system and armored vehicle,” according to the Russian newspaper The Independent [Google English translation here ] “…From the inside, the walls are decorated with paintings with battle scenes from military history and texts from the Holy Scriptures. The projected height is 95 meters [104 feet] and is designed for 6,000 people.”

“Kartapolov is convinced that the modern Russian serviceman cannot be shaped without shaping lofty spirituality in him,” Russian media said. “Speaking about ideology, the deputy head of the military department pointed out that this will be based on knowledge of the history of our Motherland and people and on historical and cultural traditions.”

“Even though the Russian constitution states that ‘no ideology may be established as state or obligatory,’ the Kremlin continues to search for a unifying set of beliefs,” notes the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office.

Religion has long played a role in Russian military life, first through the Russian Orthodox Church in Tsarist times, and then—in a secular way—through Communism in Soviet times. “In late imperial Russia, when they began to build garrisons, every regiment sought to build a regimental church, but not a synagogue or mosque,” Roger Reese, an historian at Texas A&M University who has written books on the Tsarist and Soviet armed forces, told the National Interest. “In Putin’s Russia, the Orthodox Church seeks every opportunity to represent itself as the national religion and tie itself to the state as it had under the tsars, so this act represents continuity broken temporarily by the Soviet years. Of course the Soviet regime did not build churches for the army, but it did build the ‘House of the Red Army,’ shaped like a star, in Moscow dedicated to the use of the Red Army and its soldiers.

In some respects it was analogous to a USO [United Service Organization that supports American soldiers] building. So Putin’s dedicating one particular building to the use of the Russian Army soldiers for purposes of morale—and morals—is in line with that.”

While the thought of a military church will be distasteful to some, Russia is hardly unique in linking the military and religion.

Many armies, the United States and Israel included, maintain chaplains who wear uniform and hold military rank. Chapels are common on military bases, and soldiers are given time for – and sometimes pressured to – attend religious services. While a Russian military church is likely to favor a specific denomination – Russian Orthodoxy – even that isn’t unique: non-Christian members of the U.S. military have complained of religious discrimination , especially by Christian fundamentalists.

What’s interesting is how little things change. Be it the Tsar’s conscripts, or the Red Army’s draftees or the volunteers who comprise much of modern Russia’s military, some spiritual reinforcement is deemed necessary to get soldiers to fight.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending