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Russia challenges Britain on Skripal: insists on proper procedures being followed; demands answers

Russia publishes detailed rebuttal of British claims on Skripal case, demands British answers to host of unanswered questions

Alexander Mercouris

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The Russian Foreign Ministry has published a formal statement responding to British claims of Russian involvement in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, and demanding that Britain answer questions about its conduct of the Skripal case

The complete text of the statement – known in diplomatic language as an Aide-memoire – is as follows

21 March 2018    21:33
Aide-memoire to clarify the state of affairs as regards the so-called ‘Skripal case’

1. On 12 March 2018, Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May, addressing the House of Commons, said it was “highly likely” that the Russian Federation was responsible for the poisoning of former GRU colonel, double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury, with a nerve agent identified according to British classification as A-234.

The United Kingdom has publicly raised a question about Russia’s “concealing” and “using” part of its chemical arsenal, thus alleging that Russia has “violated” its obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) – one of the most effective multilateral treaties in the disarmament and non-proliferation field, which was initiated, among others, by our country.

Thus, the United Kingdom has come out against Russia as well as against the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) itself and the tremendous work that has been done within this organization during the last two decades, including with participation of the United Kingdom.

Pursuant to the requirements of Article III of the CWC, the Russian Federation submitted a full and complete declaration of all its chemical weapons stockpiles. That data was thoroughly checked and verified by the inspection teams of the OPCW Technical Secretariat. The fact of the full elimination of Russia’s chemical arsenal has been officially confirmed by the authorized international institution – the OPCW.

2. On 12 March 2018, given the gravity of the accusations brought against our country, the Russian Embassy in London sent a note verbale to the Foreign Office of Great Britain requesting access to the investigation materials, including samples of the chemical agent that British investigators were referring to, so that it could be tested by our experts in the framework of joint investigation.

Thus, we proposed to act in accordance with paragraph 2 of Article IX of the CWC. It stipulates that States Parties to the Convention should first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with the CWC. Under the provisions of that Article, Russia would be ready to respond to the United Kingdom’s request within 10 days.

Unfortunately, the British side rejected that option and, instead of following the existing norms of international law, chose to unscrupulously politicize the issue.

3. British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested that a special Security Council meeting to discuss the matter be held on 14 March 2018.  Suspecting that London would play dirty, Russia insisted on making the Security Council’s meeting open.

It is incomprehensible what the British side was trying to achieve by bringing the issue to the UNSC. This matter by no means falls within the mandate of the UNSC. It is quite obvious that all discussions are pointless until the OPCW gives its assessment of the Salisbury incident (it is important to know whether a nerve agent was actually used; if it was, how the likely origin of the chemicals was determined; what, and on what basis, actions were taken with regard to the victims, etc.).

4. On 14 March 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May, apparently having come to senses, finally sent a letter to Director-General of the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü (circulated to all OPCW Executive Council Member States on 15 March 2018) inviting the OPCW Technical Secretariat “to independently verify the analysis” of the British investigation into the Salisbury incident.

As indicated in the press release by the British Foreign Office of 18 March 2018, following the letter by Ms Theresa May, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the OPCW invited experts of the OPCW Technical Secretariat to visit the United Kingdom to carry out an independent analysis of the findings of the British Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in connection with the Salisbury incident. On 19 March 2018, OPCW experts arrived in the United Kingdom.

Russia expects the OPCW to make an official detailed account of developments around the ‘Skripal case’. We proceed from the understanding that the OPCW Technical Secretariat shall conduct a full-fledged independent investigation in accordance with all relevant provisions of the CWC.

5. Russia has more and more questions both in legal and practical terms. And we intend to seek answers through the OPCW.

Russia states that it has not used chemical weapons against Great Britain. We suppose that the attack on the Skripals with toxic chemicals shall be deemed a terrorist act. As Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen, is among the victims to the incident, we propose cooperation with the British Side under Article IX of the CWC.

We would like to ascertain the following issues.

Where, how, and by whom were the samples collected from Sergei and Yulia Skripal? How was it all documented? Who can certify that the data is credible? Was the chain of custody up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected?

Which methods (spectral analysis and others) were used by the British side to identify, within such a remarkably short period of time, the type of the substance used (“Novichok” according to the western classification)? As far as we know, to do that, they must have had a standard sample of such agent at their disposal.

And how do these hasty actions correlate with Scotland Yard’s official statements that “the investigation is highly likely to take weeks or even months” to arrive at conclusions?

What information and medical effects led to a hasty decision to administer antidotes to the aggrieved Skripals and the British policeman? Could that hastiness lead to grave complications and further deterioration of their health status?

Which antidotes exactly were administered? What tests had been conducted to make the decision to use these drugs?

How can the delayed action of the nerve agent be explained, given that it is a fast-acting substance by nature? The victims were allegedly poisoned in a pizzeria (in a car, at the airport, at home, according to other accounts). So what really happened? How come they were found in some unidentified time on a bench in the street?

We need an explanation why it is Russia who was accused on the ‘Skripal case’ without any grounds whatsoever, while works to develop the agent codenamed “Novichok” in the West had been carried out by the United Kingdom, the USA, Sweden and the Czech Republic. There are more than 200 open sources publications in the NATO countries, highlighting the results that those countries achieved in the development of new toxic agents of this type.

6. Even from purely humanitarian perspective London’s action appears simply barbaric. On 4 March 2018 (as British authorities themselves claim) a nerve agent attack against Russian citizen Yulia Skripal was committed in the territory of the United Kingdom.

Russian Federation has demanded exhaustive information on the course of investigation into the Salisbury incident involving a Russian citizen (the Russian Embassy in London sent the relevant note verbale on 12 March 2018).

The United Kingdom is breaching elementary rules of inter-State relations and is still denying, without any explanation, Russian officials’ consular access to Yulia Skripal envisaged by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more than two weeks now, we have not been able to credibly ascertain what happened to our citizen and what condition she is actually in.

On 16 March, the Main Directorate for High-Priority Cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal investigation into the attempted willful murder of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal committed by dangerous means in the territory of the United Kingdom.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the Russian legislation and the norms of international law. Highly qualified experts will contribute to the investigation.

The investigators stand ready to work together with the competent authorities of the United Kingdom. We expect a cooperative approach of the British side.

7. In the UN Security Council as well as in the OPCW and at other international fora, the Russian Federation has been a consistent and insistent proponent of thorough, comprehensive and professional investigation of all crimes involving toxic chemicals, and of bringing perpetrators to justice.

We are ready to engage in full-scale and open cooperation with the United Kingdom in order to address any concerns whether in bilateral format or within the OPCW and other international instruments, working within the purview of international law.

As a responsible member of the international community and a bona fide State Party to the CWC Russia will never speak the language of ultimatums or answer informal and word-of-mouth questions.

The Western countries’ action on the fabricated ‘Skripal case’ contravenes the norms of international law and the general practice of inter-State relations, as well as the common sense itself. Naturally, we run a detailed record of all that, and when time comes, those guilty will inevitably be brought to justice.

Compare this careful statement with this infantile video published by the British Foreign Office, which conflates speculations about the case appearing on Russian television channels and in Russian newspapers with formal statements of the Russian government

To be clear, the Russians have provided a full explanation of their position: they were not involved in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, they do not possess any stocks of Novichok chemicals, and the Novichok chemical used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal cannot therefore have come from their stocks, which do not exist.

It is perverse and mendacious for the British to go on pretending that the Russians have not fully answered the question Theresa May put to them in her notorious ultimatum of a week ago.  Not only have the Russians fully answered the question; they have done so repeatedly.  It is another matter that the British do not like the answer.

The Russian statement or Aide-memoire speaks for itself, but I will just add two further points to it:

(1) Former British ambassador Craig Murray, whose articles on the Skripal case have been quite simply outstanding, has made the point that the British have never actually said that the chemical agent used in the attack on Skripal was made in Russia.

Instead the formula always used in all British and Western statements about the chemical agent used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal is that it was of a type developed by Russia.

I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation. The Russians were allegedly researching, in the “Novichok” programme a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a “novichok” in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.

To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday:

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.

When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise.

To which I would add that the formula of a type developed by Russia is actually wrong.

The family of chemical agents the Western powers call “Novichoks” (apparently it is not a Russian term) were not “developed by Russia”.  They were developed by the USSR, which was a different and much bigger country than Russia.

The main production facility was allegedly in Uzbekistan, which is not part of Russia, though there is actually doubt about whether any “Novichok” agents were ever made there.

The British have apparently tried to get round this problem by saying that Russia is the USSR’s successor state and “assumed responsibility” for all the USSR’s programmes.

This is absurd.  Russia does not control everything that happens across the whole territory of the former USSR and it is absurd to say that it “responsible” for some of the things that might go on there.

Three former constituent republics of the USSR – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are now members of NATO.  Ukraine and Georgia are on bad terms with Russia and are regarded by NATO as NATO aspirant states. Uzbekistan, though currently friendly to Russia, has not always been so.  Moldova is deeply split between a pro-Russian President and a fervidly anti-Russian and pro-Western government.

To suppose that Russia is responsible for what goes on within these countries is ridiculous.  Yet they were part of the USSR – the country where development of the Novichok chemical agents took place – to the same extent that Russia was, and it is at least possible (indeed it is highly likely) that knowledge about the Novichok programme is dispersed across some or all of these countries, just as it is now dispersed in the West.

It seems that the facility where most of the research into Novichok chemical agents was done was located in Saratov which is now in Russia.

However given that the USSR was a different and much bigger country than Russia, it cannot be said that Novichok chemical agents are “of a type developed by Russia”.  It is false and misleading to go on saying so.

(2) An article in the Guardian today contains this quite extraordinary sentence

A Russian official said on Wednesday that Moscow would not accept the results of an inquiry into the source of the poison being undertaken by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

The official in question is Vladimir Yermakov, a deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for non-proliferation, who the Guardian also reports in the same article saying the following

It is not possible to evaluate what happened in Salisbury within the framework of the [chemical weapons] convention and within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Deeper expert evaluations will be needed, and in any case we need to conduct our own investigations for Russia to be able to draw any conclusions

The sentence in the Guardian article saying that “Moscow would not accept the results of the inquiry into the source of the poison being undertaken by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” is therefore wrong.

Yermakov simply made the point that the OPCW is not a police agency and its role is limited to confirming the identity of the chemical agent used in the attack. In order to find out who actually carried out the attack, and to understand fully what took place in Salisbury, a proper and thorough criminal investigation of the entire incident is needed.

That is obviously correct.

I would add that one of the most troubling aspects of this case is the way the British are trying to present the identity of the chemical agent as “proof” both of its origins and of who was responsible for the attack, when in fact it is no such thing.

To reiterate a point repeatedly made – including by Craig Murray (see above) and by the Moon of Alabama – the mere fact that a Novichok chemical agent might have been used in the attack does not prove that Russia was responsible for the attack because Novichok chemical agents can be made – and have been made – in places other than Russia.

The paragraph in the Guardian is doubly misleading because as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Aide-memoire shows, it was Russia not Britain which originally insisted that the OPCW become involved in establishing which chemical agent was used in the attack, with the British initially resisting all outside involvement.

On the subject of the actual criminal investigation – which alone can determine who was responsible for the attack – the Russian Aide-memoire makes clear that Russia demands that it participate fully in the investigation since the attack being investigated was an attack on its citizens

The United Kingdom is breaching elementary rules of inter-State relations and is still denying, without any explanation, Russian officials’ consular access to Yulia Skripal envisaged by the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. For more than two weeks now, we have not been able to credibly ascertain what happened to our citizen and what condition she is actually in.

On 16 March, the Main Directorate for High-Priority Cases of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated a criminal investigation into the attempted willful murder of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal committed by dangerous means in the territory of the United Kingdom.

The investigation will be conducted in accordance with the Russian legislation and the norms of international law. Highly qualified experts will contribute to the investigation.

The investigators stand ready to work together with the competent authorities of the United Kingdom. We expect a cooperative approach of the British side.

The Aide-memoire only refers to Yulia Skripal.  However since the Aide-memoire was published the Russians appear to have discovered that Sergey Skripal was a Russian citizen as well.  Apparently he never formally gave up his Russian citizenship, so that so far as the Russians are concerned he has dual citizenship: Russian as well as British.

Here is what Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, has to say about this

I must make it clear: Sergei Skripal has dual citizenship – Russian and British. Britons said that as he has British citizenship, they will be reporting nothing on his condition to us

Accordingly the Russians will presumably now also demand full consular access to Sergey Skripal as well as to his daughter Yulia Skripal, and no doubt they will also now extend their own investigation to look into the circumstances of the attack on Sergey Skripal, as well as into the attack on his daughter, Yulia Skripal.

This may prove important since it may make it easier for the Russians to obtain – or demand – information about what Sergey Skripal has been up to since he left Russia.

I retain an open mind about who was responsible for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  I genuinely do not know who carried out the attack and why, and since I do not know I think it is improper to guess.

What I will say is this: the Russians are offering clear explanations, are posing relevant questions, are insisting on established procedures being followed in accordance with international treaties and with the Chemical Weapons Convention, and are offering their full cooperation to the OPCW, whose involvement they were the first to insist upon.

They are also offering – indeed insisting – on their full participation in the criminal investigation of the attack on two people they say are their citizens.

By contrast the British are keeping what they know secret, initially resisted calling in the OPCW, are blocking the Russians from having consular access to two of their citizens, and are denying the Russians information about the investigation of an attack on two of their citizens.

They are also saying things about a supposed Russian failure to answer questions and a Russian failure to cooperate which are simply untrue.

I leave it to the readers of this article to decide for themselves who – the Russians or the British – is behaving more suspiciously in the conduct of this case.

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Fusion GPS founder trapped in legal jeopardy, bets on Democrat midterm win to bury Russiagate hoax (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 135.

Alex Christoforou

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Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr and ex-FBI official James Baker are set to testify before Congress, but Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth.

The man at the center of the Russiagate hoax, Glenn Simpson, headed the espionage/PR smear firm Fusion GPS, which ordered the discredited and fake Trump ‘dossier’, which John McCain handed to the FBI, and which Buzzfeed News published as actual news.

Simpson has a lot of explaining to do, and now appears trapped in his “under oath” lies.

Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with DOJ official Bruce Ohr, husband to Fusion GPS researcher Nellie Ohr.

Simpson also stated under oath that he never discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application, which was used to spy on Carter Page and kick off the ‘Russiagate hoax’.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the legal jeopardy entangling Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Republicans are close to breaking the ‘Russiagate hoax’ wide open, but Simpson is betting on delay tactics, and a subsequent Democrat midterm House victory, to save his ass from prosecution, and bury his involvement in a brazen attempt to discredit and remove an elected US President.

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According to Zerohedge, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson may be in “real legal jeopardy” over inconsistent testimony given to Congress regarding his involvement in a massive counterintelligence effort against then-candidate Donald Trump, including the infamous Steele dossier.

Speaking with Fox News Maria Bartiromo, John Ratcliffe (R-TX) said…

“I’m not surprised that Glenn Simpson is taking the Fifth.”

“He probably should. He’s in real legal jeopardy. Very clearly someone is not telling the truth.”

Via The Daily Caller… 

Simpson, who investigated the Trump campaign on behalf of the DNC and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, informed Congress on Thursday that he will plead the Fifth to avoid speaking with members of the House Judiciary and House Oversight & Government Committee in an interview set for Tuesday.

“The reason for that … is that Glenn Simpson had previously testified under oath to the House Intelligence Committee that he never met with Bruce Ohr or discussed with Bruce Ohr the Steele dossier prior to the October FISA application in 2016 or the 2016 presidential election,” said Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary panel.

Via Fox News ‘Sunday Morning Futures’

Via Zerohedge

Ohr told the Judiciary and Oversight & Government Reform Committees in an August 28 interview that he met with Simpson in August and December of 2016 to discuss Fusion GPS’s opposition research into Donald Trump.

Bruce’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was hired by Fusion GPS for the anti-Trump effort at the time.

Simpson, however, told a different story to the House Intelligence Committee on November 14, 2017, when he said that he hadn’t been in contact with anyone from the DOJ or FBI until after the election. While he did acknowledge meeting with Bruce Ohr (meetings which would result in Ohr’s demotion), Simpson never disclosed his wife’s employment.

“Ohr, who has been demoted twice since December, was also in frequent contact with Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier. Steele, a former British spy, was hired by Fusion GPS in June 2016 to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible links to the Kremlin.

Steele met with the Ohrs on July 30, 2016, a day before the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump team. Ohr met just after with FBI deputy Director Andrew McCabe.” – Daily Caller

Following the 2016 election, Steel and Ohr met over a dozen times, despite the FBI having blacklisted Steele for improper media disclosures concerning his work.

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Hillary and Holder are hurting Democrat Party with their rhetoric

Democrat-written opinion piece points out the fact that the party has radicalized so much it has left its own supporters behind.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News ran an opinion piece written by Douglas E. Schoen early Sunday. It points out how radicalized the Democrat Party has become, and it is noteworthy because Douglas Schoen is a Democrat himself. He writes (emphasis added):

As Democrats campaign for the Nov. 6 midterm elections, they have plenty of legitimate criticisms to level at President Trump and Republicans who control the House and Senate. But Democrats were hurt in recent days by amazing and disgusting comments made by Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

As a Democrat, I want my party to win as many seats as possible in the House and Senate and to capture as many governorships and other state offices as it can. But the Clinton and Holder remarks do not advance that effort – they hurt it.

Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Clinton said Tuesday that “you cannot be civil with” the Republican Party because it “wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.” She added that “if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

But even worse than Clinton’s comments were those of Eric Holder, who said at a recent campaign event in Georgia that Democrats should abandon the advice of former first lady Michelle Obama, who said at the 2016 Democratic National Convention that her party and mine should respond positively to negative attacks from the GOP.

Mrs. Obama said that “when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

Holder argued just the opposite, saying: “When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.” He later said he wasn’t advocating violence – not literal kicking.

I beg to differ with both Clinton and Holder.

The only way the Democrats can regain the majority in either or both houses of Congress is by being civil, and pointing out the differences between Democrats and Republicans on the issues.

This is the real issue that should govern elections. Rather than the politics of popularity, one needs to consider policy points and which side offers points that are actually achievable, believable, concrete, desirable and specific. Calling President Trump and his administration names does not offer any constructive dialogue on policy matters.

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Conservatives and Trump supporters know this and it is precisely because of this that Donald Trump won the White House.

While the mainstream media (and here we can include Fox News largely) tried every possible way to ridicule Donald Trump’s candidacy, the people that actually listened to what he had to say found him very impressive on policy as much as his ability to speak as the voice of the people. The recent hysteria around Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court was hysteria up front, driven by real policy fears from the deep core of liberals, as they know that this Justice is likely to form an effective wall against liberals ramming their agenda through the courts since their efforts fail legislatively so often.

Mr. Schoen continues:

As a centrist Democrat, the issue that strikes me most is the degree to which the national debt and the deficit are now out of control.

America faces uncertain and unstable times financially. Yet we are seeing a Republican-controlled Congress that has largely failed to do anything besides provide tax cuts for major corporations and the wealthiest individuals. This is by no means certain to have fundamentally altered the path of the economy or to provide economic growth.

Put another way, what the Trump administration has failed to do is to fix health care and cover pre-existing conditions more fundamentally; lead America in a fiscally responsible way; and pass tax cuts that help the average American. The Trump tax cuts have driven up the national debt and endangered funding for programs that benefit millions of people in our country.

So, here are policy points. Now we can begin to have a debate. Is Mr. Schoen right, or wrong in his information? This is far different than name-calling!

Democrats have long argued the need for a centrist agenda that focuses on:

  • Providing health-care benefits – whether private or public – to all Americans to cover expansively all pre-existing conditions.
  • Protecting the environment from the policies of the Trump administration that have only encouraged –and I dare say exacerbated – environmental degradation and climate change.
  • Promoting a pro-growth, inclusive agenda that seeks to put working people first, and the interests of Washington insiders and economic elites second. President Trump claims that he is doing this – he calls it “draining the swamp” – but this has not happened.

There is no justification for the angry rhetoric of Clinton and Holder, which only feeds into Republican claims that Democrats are an angry mob that can’t get over Clinton’s loss to Trump two years ago.

And Holder looks particularly bad because he was once the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, yet now sounds like he is effectively advocating what appears to be either illegal activities, or metaphorical initiatives that run counter to our traditions and our politics.

Hillary Clinton has said she won’t run for office again, but Holder has said he may run for president in 2020. Whoever the Democratic candidate turns out to be needs to be a responsible and respectable opponent – not one who calls for kicking the GOP or for incivility.

We should have learned from the Senate confirmation hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh that resisting for the sake of resisting doesn’t work. In fact, Democratic attacks on Kavanaugh may well have backfired, recent polls show.

The Democratic Party itself is lost now, without a message, a direction, a strategy, or agenda to confront a Republican Party that is seen as in many ways as having let the American people down.

We need change – but it must be constructive change. This Democrat believes that the comments that Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton made are wrong, counterproductive, and deserve to be rejected by the leadership of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps Fox News ran this opinion piece because Douglas Schoen is the first rational Democrat contributor to say anything in some time. However, it also appears that Mr. Schoen is a minority in his own party. It is a greatly logical approach to argue policy, as he has and as anyone who really understands American government should. But it is unclear as to whether the bulk of the Democrat Party even has reasonable people remaining.

If they do, it may well be that they are being betrayed by their party’s increasingly leftist and radical positions. The Party apparatus seems focused, but it also seems to have left people like Mr. Schoen behind.

Who knows? Maybe that will bring them into the Trump camp.

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Patriarch Bartholomew lifts anathemas on schismatics in Ukraine (VIDEO)

Most of the Orthodox world is in strong opposition to this move by Patriarch Bartholomew, whose motivations seem not to be of Christ.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The biggest news in the Eastern Orthodox world in recent times occurred on Thursday, October 11, 2018. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, lifted the anathemas against two schismatic Ukrainian Churches and their leaders, paving the way to the creation of a fully independent Ukrainian national Orthodox Church.

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This announcement was given in English and is shown here in video with the textual transcript following:

“Presided by His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Holy and Sacred Synod convened for its regular session from October 9 to 11, 2018 in order to examine and discuss items on its agenda. The Holy Synod discussed in particular and at length, the ecclesiastical mater of Ukraine in the presence of His Excellency Archbishop Daniel of Pamphilon and His Grace Bishp Ilarion of Edmonon, Patriarchal Exarchs to Ukraine, and following extensive deliberations decreed (emphasis added):

First, to renew the decision already made, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate proceed to the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine;

Second, to re-establish at this moment the stavropegion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Kiev—one of its many starvorpegion in Ukraine that existed there always;

Third, to accept and review the petitions of appeal of Philaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich and their followers who found themselves in schism not for dogmatic reasons, in accordance with the canonical prerogatives of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to receive such petitions by hierarchs and other clergy of all the autocephalous Churches. Thus, the above mentioned have been canonically reinstated to their hierarchical or priestly rank, and their faithful have been restored to communion with the Church;

Fourth, to revoke the legal binding of the Synodal letter of the year 1686, issued for the circumstances of that time, which granted the right through economia to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev elected by the clergy-laity assembly of his eparchy, who would commemorate the Ecumenical Patriarch as the first hierarch at any celebration, proclaiming and affirming his canonical dependence to the Mother Church of Constantinople;

Fifth, to appeal to all sides involved that they avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties as well as every other act of violence and retaliation so that he peace and love of Christ may prevail.”

There are a few things that must be said about what this declaration is not before we get to the matter of what the points of actually are. The point of reference is the strict letter of the text above itself.

  • This is not a granting of autocephaly (full independent self-rule status) like the fourteen universally canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the world. However, it is a huge step towards this status.
  • As far as Constantinople is concerned, Filaret Denisenko, the leader and “Patriarch” of the “Kyiv Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church” and Makary, the “Metropolitan” of the “Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church”, and all their faithful are now restored to communion. The statement says that this applies to “The Church” which may be trying to state that these two men (and all the faithful that they lead), are now in communion with the entirety of canonical Orthodoxy, but more likely, this may be a carefully worded statement to say they now are in communion with Constantinople alone.
  • There is an official call for the cessation of the violence directed against the Moscow Patriarchate parishes and communities, who are the only canonically recognized Orthodox Church in Ukraine, and who are also the largest by far in that country. The Kyiv Patriarchate and Uniate (Roman oriented) Greek Catholics in Ukraine have gone on record for seizing MP church properties, often by force, with neo-Nazi sympathizers and other radical Ukrainian nationalists. So this official call to cease the violence is now a matter of public record.

However, the reaction has been far less civil than the clergy wished for.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: “Expressing his view of the Moscow Patriarchate, Poroshenko added, “This is a great victory of the God-loving Ukrainian people over the Moscow demons, the victory of Good over Evil, the victory of Light over Darkness.”’

Perhaps this is the reason Metropolitan Onuphry of Ukraine (exarch under the Moscow Patriarchate) has been labeled an enemy of Ukraine and is now receiving death threats. Very civil.

Poroshenko’s statement is all the more bizarre, considering that it has been Ukrainian ultra-nationalists that have been violently attacking Moscow – related parishes in Ukraine. This has been corroborated by news sources eager to pin the blame on Russia, such as the U.K. Guardian.

The Union of Orthodox Journalists, based in Kiev and supportive of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been under intense cyber attack since October 11th, when the EP’s announcement was issued.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Chancellor, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary: “What happened at the Synod in Istanbul yesterday shocked the entire Orthodox world. It seems the Patriarchate of Constantinople is consciously embarking on a path of schism in world Orthodoxy. Patriarch Bartholomew ignored the calls of the Local Churches to convene a meeting of the primates to work out a common and conciliar solution to the Ukrainian Church issue and unilaterally made very serious but erroneous decisions. I hope the Orthodox world will give this action an objective evaluation… Having received the schismatics into communion, Patriarch Bartholomew did not make them canonical, but has himself embarked on the path of schism. The schismatics remain schismatics. They did not receive any autocephaly or tomos. It seems they have lost even that independence, although non-canonical, that they had and which they always emphasized.”

Metropolitan Rostislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia:“The Orthodox world recognizes the only canonical primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church—His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. This fact was repeatedly mentioned and confirmed by the primate of the Great Church of Christ His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on behalf of all present at the Synaxis of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches that was held in Chambésy (Switzerland) from January 21 to 27, 2016. Therefore, any attempt to legalize the Ukrainian schismatics by the state authorities should be strongly condemned by all the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.

Patriarch Irinej of Serbia wrote two letters to the Ecumenical Patriarch, advocating that the provision of a new autocephaly is possible only with the consent of all local Orthodox Churches. According to Sedmitza.ru (Translation by Pravoslavie.ru),

“In these letters, it was very clearly stated that the granting of autocephaly cannot be the prerogative the Patriarchate of Constantinople alone, that new autocephalies must be created only with the consent of all the Local Orthodox Churches, as the Holy Synod of Antioch also said in its recent statement.”

Pat. Irinej also warned the Patriarchate of Constantinople against making such major decisions unilaterally, because “it will not bring harmony and peace to the Ukrainian land, but, on the contrary, will cause new divisions and new schisms.”

The Holy Synod of Antioch, the oldest Orthodox Church, and actually the very first place where the disciples of Christ were even called “Christians” weighed in on the issue as well and they had several things to say:

“The fathers examined the general Orthodox situation. They stressed that the Church of Antioch expresses her deep worries about the attempts to change the boundaries of the Orthodox Churches through a new reading of history. She considers that resorting to a unilateral reading of history does not serve Orthodox unity. It rather contributes to the fueling of the dissensions and quarrels within the one Church. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses the principle of establishing parallel jurisdictions within the canonical boundaries of the Patriarchates and the autocephalous Churches as a way to solve conflicts, or as a de facto situation in the Orthodox world.

To summarize, this move by Constantinople is not being warmly received by many, many people. Most of the local Churches are on record giving their reaction to this process. In brief, here is the list most of the Local Churches and a one or two word summary of their reactions.

Patriarchate of Georgia: Unilateral action is wrong; Constantinople and Moscow must cooperate and find a solution together.

Patriarchate of Jerusalem: recognizes Ukraine as a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church alone, as do all other local Churches

Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa: The Church does not bow to politicians. Moscow-led church is the only canonical Church in Ukraine.

Archbishop of Cyprus: Decries the Ukrainian situation but offered to mediate a discussion between Moscow and Constantinople

Bulgarian Patriarchate: Interference of the State in Church affairs leads to serious and negative consequences for both.

Polish Orthodox Church: Metropolitan Sawa called for a council of Orthodox ruling hierarchs to discuss this situation.

Estonian Orthodox Church: Condemns Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

Greek Archdiocese of America: Supports Constantinople’s actions in Ukraine.

The Orthodox Church of Greece (Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus quoted): “Schismatics, as we know, are not the Church, and communion with them is forbidden by the Divine and holy canons and the Apostolic and Ecumenical Councils. Why then this persistence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in recognizing schismatics as an autocephalous Church? To provoke schisms and divisions in the one universal and Apostolic Church of Christ?”

Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR): Ceased commemoration of Constantinople, ceased concelebration with Constantinople.

This issue has also rocked the secular geopolitical world.

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