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Skripal case: Russia counter-attacks; Britain responds by tightening access to Yulia Skripal

Britain struggles to respond to Russia’s diplomatic counter-offensive, stonewalls all Russian attempts to gain access to Yulia Skripal

Alexander Mercouris

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If during the first three weeks of the Skripal crisis it was the British who made the running, over the last two weeks the initiative has slowly shifted to the Russians.

As is often the way, the Russians – caught by surprise by a crisis that seemed to come out of nowhere – initially responded reactively.

However as the weeks have passed they have gradually found their footing, and are now starting to score points.

By contrast it is the British – who apparently assumed that following the diplomatic expulsions the crisis would subside – who now look increasingly on the blackfoot as, contrary to their expectations, the Russians refuse to let the matter rest.

The result has been bitter recriminations in the British media – with much of the blame being placed on Boris Johnson – a flood of not always very consistent or convincing leaks to the media trying to bolster the British case, and ever more shrill denunciations of the supposedly ‘useful idiots’ who express doubts about it.

With hindsight the Russians took one step in the early days of the crisis which has paid handsome dividends.

This was their insistence – made as early as the UN Security Council session of 14th March 2018 – that Britain follow the procedures of the Chemical Weapons Convention and obtain confirmation from the OPCW of the nature of the poison used in the attack.

The Russians followed this up by convening a meeting of the OPCW’s executive committee on 4th April 2018 at which they presented a resolution which jointly sponsored by Russia, China and Iran for an international investigation of the incident, with law enforcement agencies from Britain and Russia both involved in the investigation.

This is by no means an absurd or outlandish proposal.  On the contrary since Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen it is precisely what should have happened.

However – as the Russians of course know – the OPCW has no jurisdiction to impose an international investigation of a crime which has happened in a sovereign state.  That is a matter solely within the jurisdiction of that state, and the OPCW – which is not an investigative body –  has no authority to order it.  The only international institution which does is the UN Security Council.

There was no possibility therefore of the Russian-Chinese-Iranian proposal being adopted, or of  being put into effect if it was adopted, and the Russians – and the Chinese and the Iranians – must have known this when they proposed it.

However the Russian insistence that the OPCW become involved and verify the British claim that the poison used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was a Novichok, together with the Russians’ call for an international investigation of the incident, and the lists of questions with which in advance of the OPCW executive council session the Russians bombarded the OPCW, the British, and the French – whose experts the British consulted to verify the identity of the poison – set the scene for the admission by Gary Aitkenhead, Porton Down’s chief executive, that contrary to British Foreign Office claims Porton Down has not been able to confirm that the chemical which poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal was made in Russia.

Ever since then, because British diplomats – not just Boris Johnson – have for weeks been lying about this, the British have been on the defensive.

As it happens the OPCW executive council session, like the UN Security Council session which Russia called shortly after, also demonstrated another important fact.

This is that the Skripal crisis is an East-West confrontation  – the West versus the Eurasian powers led by Russia and China – and not a confrontation between a ‘united world community’ and an ‘isolated Russia’, as British and other Western commentators like to claim.

It seems that all the sixteen states who at the OPCW executive council session voted against the Russian-Chinese-Iranian proposal for an international investigation of the incident are members of the Western alliance, whilst the six countries which voted for the proposal are all Eurasian states.  Importantly all seventeen of the states which chose to abstain in the voting appear to have been non-aligned states.

The pattern repeated itself at the subsequent UN Security Council meeting on the following day, 5th April 2018.

Not only were Western ambassadors the only ambassadors pointing fingers at Russia during the meeting, but those non-aligned non-Western ambassadors who chose to speak during the meeting not only did not point fingers at Russia but appeared if anything to favour the Russian position: that the mysteries of the Skripal case be solved internationally by way of cooperation between Britain and Russia.

The comments of the ambassador of Equatorial Guinea – no ally of Russia – as summarised by the United Nations Press Office, may serve as a typical example

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) expressed hope that current investigations would both shed light on the facts and be fair and commensurate with relevant international norms and procedures.  He reiterated a desire that, as permanent members of the Council, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom would set an example to the international community on the peaceful resolution of disputes.  At a pivotal moment when international institutions were under constant attack, it was important the two members used their maturity and international political experience to handle the situation prudently, he said, hoping the diplomatic crisis that had broken out would soon be defused.

If Gary Aitkenhead’s admission that Porton Down cannot confirm that the chemical agent used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was Russian made has been a public relations disaster for the British, the British authorities’ treatment of Sergey and Yulia Skripal looks increasingly like a public relations disaster waiting to happen.

The British authorities have maintained the tightest possible security around Sergey and Yulia Skripal. No photographs of them have been released and nor has any information been provided about the sort of treatment they are receiving.  So far as is known they have been seen by no visitors.  Access to them is tightly controlled.

The recent High Court Judgment permitting blood samples to be taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal so that they could be passed on to the OPCW revealed that the British authorities had previously taken blood samples from Sergey and Yulia Skripal, which were passed on to Porton Down.

(2) …….on 14 and 16 March 2018 the UK government issued a formal invitation to the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to send a team of experts to the United Kingdom ‘to assist in the technical evaluation of unscheduled chemicals in accordance with Article VIII 38(e).’ This in effect is to independently verify the analysis carried out by Porton Down. In order to conduct their enquiries the OPCW wish to

i)  Collect fresh blood samples from Mr and Ms Skripal to

a)  Undertake their own analysis in relation to evidence of nerve agents,

b)  conduct DNA analysis to confirm the samples originally tested by Porton Down are from Mr and Ms Skripal,

ii)  Analyse the medical records of Mr and Ms Skripal setting out their treatment since 4 March 2018,

iii)  Re-test the samples already analysed by Porton Down.

(3) Because Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal are unconscious and neither are in a position to consent to the taking of further blood samples for these purposes or to the disclosure of their medical records Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust have quite properly confirmed to the UK Government that a court order would be required to authorise (a) and (b) above.

(bold italics added)

There is no hint here of any previous permission being obtained from the High Court to take these blood samples.  This is so, even though Mr. Justice Williams clearly says in his Judgment that such permission should be obtained

(3) Because Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal are unconscious and neither are in a position to consent to the taking of further blood samples for these purposes or to the disclosure of their medical records Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust have quite properly confirmed to the UK Government that a court order would be required to authorise (a) and (b) above

(4) Thus the Secretary of State has applied to this court for personal welfare orders in respect of Mr and Ms Skripal under the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 seeking determinations that it is lawful for the NHS Trust to take a blood sample for provision to the OPCW and to disclose the relevant medical records to the OPCW and for the blood samples taken from Mr and Ms Skripal to be subjected to testing by the OPCW.

(bold italics added)

Was permission obtained from the High Court before the blood samples sent to Porton Down were taken from Sergey and Yulia Skripal?

If not, then was the taking of the earlier blood samples unlawful, perhaps an assault, which is a criminal offence?

If permission was obtained why has the High Court’s Judgment granting this permission not been made public?  What made it different from the Judgment of Mr. Justice Williams, which was made public?

Or could it be that no permission was needed because at the time when the blood samples were taken Sergey and Yulia Skripal were conscious and could therefore give their consent to have the samples taken?

Or might it be that it was judged at the time that the taking of the blood samples did not require the High Court’s permission because it was a necessary part of the medical treatment with which Sergey and Yulia Skripal were being provided?  If so why is nothing said about this in Mr. Justice Williams’s Judgment?

Speaking as someone who has read many court Judgments, I strongly suspect that no previous permission was obtained from the High Court when the previous blood samples were taken.  Had it been I would have expected Mr. Justice Williams in his very careful Judgment to mention it.

One way or the other I would be interested to have an explanation about this.

Publication of the High Court Judgment was followed shortly after by the sudden and unexpected announcement that Yulia Skripal was recovering well and had regained consciousness.

That the two events – the publication of the Judgment and the announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – might be linked, I have suggested previously

Now that the Russian consular authorities know of the Court proceedings concerning Yulia Skripal which have been underway it would in theory be open to them to instruct lawyers to apply for them to be joined as a party to those proceedings so that they can represent Yulia Skripal in them.

I have no idea whether they are considering doing so, but I do frankly wonder whether the sudden announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery – welcome news that it is – might also in part have been intended to forestall such a step by the Russian consular authorities on the grounds that Yulia Skripal is now in a position to make her own decisions.

Predictably enough, the announcement of Yulia Skripal’s recovery led to renewed Russian demands for consular access to her.  The British have however failed to grant such access without saying clearly why.

Meanwhile photographs of Yulia Skripal have still not appeared.  There is still no information about the treatment she is receiving.  She still appears to have seen no visitors.  There is no public word of any law firm representing her though the need for her to be provided with legal assistance – and to be allowed to consult with lawyers – is obvious.

Her cousin Viktoria Skripal has had only one telephone conversation with her that we know of, which she recorded.

As I have discussed previously, the impression provided by the transcript of the conversation is of Yulia Skripal being someone who feels very constrained in what she is either able or willing to say.

She does however know in advance that Viktoria Skripal’s request for a visa to come to Britain to see her is going to be refused (some British media outlets apparently deleted these words when they published the transcript).

That Viktoria Skripal’s request for a visa to come to Britain has been refused has now been confirmed by the BBC

Meanwhile, the UK has refused to grant a visa to Yulia’s cousin, Viktoria Skripal, the BBC has learned.

The Home Office said the application did not comply with immigration rules. A government source told the BBC it appears Russia is “trying to use Viktoria as a pawn”…..

Viktoria later told the BBC she did not have enough money in her bank account to satisfy the visa requirements.

The Guardian has provided further details of what “the government source” said about Viktoria Skripal

“It appears the Russian state is trying to use Victoria as a pawn,” a government source told the BBC, adding: “If she is being influenced or coerced by the Kremlin, she has become another victim.”

(bold italics added)

It looks as if the claim that Viktoria Skripal has insufficient money in her bank account to be granted a visa is just a pretext.

Just as her cousin Yulia Skripal told her, the British authorities have no intention of granting her a visa, not because she has insufficient money in her bank account but because they consider her to be “a pawn of the Russian government” (whatever that means).

Why that should prevent her from seeing her cousin, who is seriously ill, is left unexplained.

Incidentally I wonder whether the fact that the British authorities consider Viktoria Skripal to be “a pawn of the Russian government” also explains why she has been denied any role in the legal proceedings which affect her cousin, to the point where the British authorities appear to have failed even to inform Mr. Justice Williams of her existence?

All in all it appears that the British authorities are determined to prevent anyone from Russia – even members of Yulia Skripal’s family – from having contact with her.

That presumably accounts for the strange statement published in Yulia Skripal’s name by the British authorities in what looks like a rushed reaction to Viktoria Skripal’s publication of the transcript of her conversation with Yulia Skripal.

This statement – written in perfect idiomatic British English – appears to be intended to justify blocking access to her – either by the Russian authorities or by members of her family or by anyone such as a lawyer who might be acting on their behalf.

One effect of publication of the transcript of Yulia Skripal’s conversation with Viktoria Skripal has been that it has forced the British authorities to confirm that what Yulia Skripal told Viktoria Skripal during their conversation – that Sergey Skripal is not only alive but is also recovering – is true.

Directly after publication of the transcript I wrote that its contents appeared to suggest this, and now the British authorities themselves have been forced to confirm it.

In other words, just as publication of Mr. Justice Williams’s Judgment seems to have forced the British authorities to admit that Yulia Skripal is recovering and conscious, so Viktoria Skripal’s publication of the transcript of her telephone conversation with Yulia Skripal seems to have forced the British authorities to admit that Sergey Skripal is alive and recovering well.

Frankly the timing of these announcements, and the extraordinary secrecy about every aspect of the treatment and condition of Sergey and Yulia Skripal since they were first found on the bench, only reinforces the impression that the British authorities are in effect controlling them, and that they are being kept in a condition which looks suspiciously like detention.

Perhaps this is all being done in good faith and for their protection.

However John Helmer for one says that

The evidence now accumulating is that the hospital is detaining and isolating the Skripals against their will, preventing contact with their family.

(bold italics added)

He makes a compelling case.

With the collapse of the Novichok evidence Sergey and Yulia Skripal are now key witnesses in the case.

Perhaps they have nothing of value to say.  It is striking that a week after Yulia Skripal recovered consciousness the British police have still not identified a suspect, which suggests that her knowledge of the facts behind the attack is limited.

However in the meantime the Russians are stating what many people will doubtless see as the obvious

That the Russians may have a point is strongly suggested by the following very interesting words in this interesting article by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour, which appeared on 30th March 2018, shortly after news of Yulia Skripal’s recovery was made public

Russia has also responded to the apparent recovery of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned alongside her father. She may be able to provide insights into how the poisoning occurred, or even reveal whether she knows of some other motive by some other non-state actor.

The British intelligence services will be debriefing her as soon as her health permits. It would clearly be a huge embarrassment for the UK government if it emerged she believed the Russian state was not involved.

(bold italics added)

Perhaps it was not just rhetoric from Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia when he warned the British at the UN Security Council meeting on 5th April 2018

……that they were playing with fire and would be sorry.   Politicians in the United Kingdom had no idea that their hyped-up statements might boomerang back at them.

Does Nebenzia and the Russian government know more than they are saying?  Perhaps there are more surprises ahead in this strange affair.

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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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