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The story behind FC Zenit’s twelve year construction saga of Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg

How Zenit Arena has become the symbol of corruption.

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In March 2005, the governor of St. Petersburg Valentina Matvienko and CEO of Gazprom Alexei Miller announced a joint decision to begin the construction of a new ultramodern arena for 50,000 spectators on the Krestovsky island. It was assumed that the construction works for new home for FC Zenit (Zenit Arena or Krestovsky Stadium) would last for three years.

Nobody knew at the time that three years of planned work could easily have turned into twelve.


How did the construction costs increase?

In April 2008, the media began to mention a 70% increase of the initial cost. At the current rate, it was almost $900 million.

Four years later, in October 2012, an increased figure of 43.8 billion rubles was announced, which at the current rate was over $1.4 billion.

Today, in 2017, we can only imagine how great the final cost of the stadium is. That is taking into consideration the difference in rates throughout the years, the sanctions that have influenced the cost of materials and also the permanent rise in prices because of the financial crisis in Russia.


Which stadiums could have been built in St. Petersburg instead of the stadium on Krestovsky?

5 PPG Paints Arenas – where the Stanley Cup champions the Pittsburgh Penguins host their matches:

4 CenturyLink Fields – a sacred place for fans of the MLS champions Seattle Sounders FC and the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL

12 Allianz Stadiums – the home of Juventus Football Club, the most successful club in Italian soccer history

Moreover, Zenit Arena is $200 million more expensive than the famous U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Super Bowl LII will be held next year.

Finally, it’s hard to believe that Zenit Arena has the same construction cost as, perhaps, the most discussed stadium of the last month in North America – the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On September 16, 2017, Atlanta United played an MLS regular season match versus Orlando City at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 70,425 spectators, the largest crowd in a stand-alone MLS match.


Why the time and costs suddenly began to grow?

Federal laws against the stadium…

In January 2010, the government suddenly introduced new federal laws for firefighting. The forced reconstruction of the dome of the arena with the replacement of materials, as well as the reconstruction of fire escape stairs, required new investments and an increase in terms for almost a year.

Customer is late, constructors are in a hurry…

In January 2011, the documentation for the redevelopment was received by the builders three months later than expected, so the builders, who hurried to start the work, faced the need to dismantle the roof of the future stadium.

Sudden decision about changing the project…

In October 2011, the St. Petersburg Government Construction Committee approved a new design for the roof exactly two months after the start of work.


What kind of scandals surrounded the construction of Zenit Arena?

FIFA’s dissatisfaction…

FIFA representatives returned a verdict about the stadium’s inconsistency with the organization’s standards five times

The anger of the PM…

Dmitry Medvedev shared his opinion on the progress of construction in 2012: “This is not just a long-term construction, it looks shameful.”

Slave labor and death of workers…

According to the Norwegian magazine “Josimar” 110 North Korean builders had worked on the Zenit Arena. As stated by the Russian lawyer Olga Zeitlina, those laborers lived in terrible conditions and were completely exhausted both mentally and physically. Passports were confiscated in order to prevent them from escaping.

Officially at least ten workers were found dead, but the exact figure remains unknown.

The stadium is more important than hospitals…

The City Governor’s Office approved a plan to reallocate funds for the completion of the stadium and the surrounding infrastructure. For this purpose, $45 million was allocated from the state budget which was intended for schools, cultural facilities, and the healthcare system.

Cormorants are destroying the stadium…

According to Igor Albin, the vice-governor of St. Petersburg, the protective layer of the stadium roof could withstand up to 400 kilograms per square meter, but could not cope with cormorant attacks. This required a new full-fledged defense structure for the arena’s roof.

The stadium is dangerous for the health of spectators and athletes…

Specialists from the Ministry of Health found that the content of ammonia and formaldehyde in the locker rooms and halls was exceeded. Toxins were being given off from the materials that were used to finish the premises. The reason lies in the concrete and additives that were used during the winter period construction.


What strange things were taking place during the construction of Zenit Arena?

The Kremlin oligarchs’ unexpected successes…

In 2013 the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg and Oleg Deripaska’s company Transstroy, which was responsible for the construction works on Krestovskiy island, terminated the contract. In two months Transstroy won the bid for the second time, and the city government re-signed the contract.

Bids for nonexistent works…

In 2014, the bid for the creation of an artificial land plot around Krestovsky island for the construction of an “invisible stadium” for the 2018 World Cup was shelved. The estimated amount of allocated funds was $39 million. The number of similar undisclosed initiatives remain unknown.

Suspended criminal cases…

In 2015, an investigation into an embezzlement case of $2.5 million by one of the subcontracting parties was terminated due to the statute of limitations expiring.

The disappearance of the scoreboard from Zenit Arena…

In 2016, the Investigative Committee and the St. Petersburg Economic Police launched large-scale searches of $2.5 million that were intended for the installation and exploitation of a scoreboard.


What kind of incidents took place in the stadium?

  • The vibration of the field exceeded the permissible limit by seven times
  • The wind damaged the roof of the stadium twice
  • Cracks in the concrete walls were found several months before the opening
  • The stadium was flooded two times, so some parts of it were covered in mold


Who is in the dock?

Only one official!

According to the investigation, the vice-governor of construction Marat Oganesyan ensured the illegal involvement of a subcontractor in the construction of the stadium. The result was the plundering of more than $866,000 through one-day companies.

From 2004 to 2010, Marat Oganesyan led the “Soglasie Group” company, which was engaged in the reconstruction of the buildings of the Moscow Kremlin and built the trade and hotel complex “Moscow City”.


Who is suspected by media?

In 2013, the press vigorously discussed the report of the Control and Accounting Chamber of St. Petersburg. As soon as this report was made public the authorities classified this information as confidential. A number of well-known names disappeared from the final version of the document, among them:

Governor Valentina Matvienko, who signed the draft law on the allocation of more than $164 million for a new contractor – Inzhtransstroy. She holds the post of speaker of the Federation Council.

Vice-governor Roman Filimonov, who lobbied for large-scale project changes and increasing the costs. Today he holds a high position in the JSC Russian Railways.

Vice-governor Alexander Vakhmistrov, who was responsible for solving the issues of capital construction and reconstruction of real estate objects. Now he is the coordinator of the “National Association of Builders”.

The name of the chairman of the Construction Committee Vyacheslav Semenenko was mentioned so often in corruption cases on Krestovsky island that his resignation, according to the Media, was the result of scandals around the arena. However, instead of a criminal case, the official was appointed to the Administration of the governor of St. Petersburg.


How is the arena functioning after the opening?

The case of the Krestovsky Stadium remains the most discussed sport topic of the day in Russia.

The reasons why Zenit Arena is not ready to host matches at the highest level are the following:

The overdraft of the construction of a pitch that could roll out beyond the stadium for special events. Today it is not functioning, as the FIFA media center is built near the stadium, which interferes with the construction. The imminent transfer of the media center will require an additional $7 million.

  • The unique roof does not close or leaks when it is raining
  • Zenit FC was forced to change the lawn two times during the last six months. For example, in April the grass rotted due to improper use of the insulation system. It was switched on at night for a month, but should be used only 4 hours per day.
  • Memes regarding the unfinished state of the stadium and its leakages became the most popular segment of the Russian web in the first half of 2017.


Why the construction on Krestovsky island is a sad verdict for Russian realities?

For the last twelve years the country has been living in some kind of reality show, where each episode only confirms how logical the season finale is, but new participants and sensational incidents allow people to believe in an unexpected ending.

Big businesses, officials, rascals from one-day companies and sport giants felt the ground for new frauds, lost a sense of the measure. For them it’s only possible in the reality show called «Russia».


The ghastly saga of the Zenit stadium serves as a supreme example of the sort of things that still go wrong in Russia.

In the twelve years since the project was launched it has become a feeding trough for an unholy collection of profiteers and blunderers. Big prestige projects like this often attract corruption in many countries but the failure of the Russian authorities to get a grip on it in this case, the lack of transparency and basic accountability, and the protection offered to privileged and sometimes corrupt insiders speaks for itself and shows that Russia has still not put the ghastly realities of its corrupt past entirely behind it.”

The Russians actually are not bad at carrying out big construction projects. It depends very much on who is involved. If the project is run by the central government then it runs a reasonable chance of being completed without the timetable or budget suffering from excessive cost overruns.

Projects run by local governments – like this one – are a wholly different matter.

In this case I suspect that part of the problem was that Matviyenko, the mayor of St. Petersburg who initiated the project and who is an exceptionally steely character (she is an outside possibility for Putin’s successor), was over focused on a large number of other gigantic infrastructure projects in the St. Petersburg area, of which the huge dam built to protect St. Petersburg from floods (talked about since the 1950s but only actually built under her) was just one, and as a result she lost focus on the stadium.

Matviyenko then transferred to Moscow in 2011 to become Chair of the Federation Council, leaving her much weaker successors to sort out the mess. They would have been no match to Oleg Deripaska, the tough oligarch who is behind the stadium project.

That points to the nature of Russia’s problems. It is not Germany where people can be left alone to do things properly by themselves. On the contrary if things are to be done properly they require the unremitting attention of those in charge.

As the Russians say themselves, the country works only on manual not automatic.

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‘Treasonous’ Trump in the Conspirators’ Crosshairs

Every effort will continue to be made to ensure no concrete progress can be made on whatever was discussed in Helsinki while maintaining the 24/7 drumbeat of demonization.

Jim Jatras

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At least the White House can be happy that the resident Hitler-in-Chief’s inhuman separation of innocent migrant children from adults caught illegally crossing the US border with Mexico matters to nobody anymore.

Everyone’s moved on. “Children in cages” is yesterday’s news.

The issue now is treason, a crime carrying the death penalty.

On that score America and the entire world owe former CIA Director and onetime communist voter John Brennan a debt of gratitude for pointing out that President Donald Trump’s expressing the slightest hint of doubt about conclusions reached by the US Intelligence Community is both impeachable and treasonous.

Brennan didn’t just make that up, you know. It’s in the Constitution of the United States, right there in black and white:

Article II, Section 1: “The executive Power shall be vested in an Intelligence Community of the United States of America.”

Article III, Section 3: “Treason against the United States, shall consist in doubting the Intelligence Community in any way, shape, or form.”

There you have it, it’s an open and shut case of treason, committed in full view of the global public within feet of Russian President Vladimir Putin – who, as the crack journalists of our intrepid Fourth Estate have now revealed through their diligent investigative work, was once an officer in the Soviet  KGB!  Trump’s unmasking, through his very own perfidious words, now adds “traitor” to all the other terms of opprobrium already justly appertaining to him.

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We all know what happens to traitors, don’t we?

A day later Trump hastily sought to cover up his treachery with the lame suggestion that he had inadvertently dropped the semi-syllable “-n’t” during his Helsinki press conference with his Russian “handler.” (Actually, that “wouldn’t/would” dodge is pretty cute. Who thought it up – Steve Miller? Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Trump himself? Genius! One can almost hear them brainstorming over what explanation would most insult the limited intelligence of their critics.)

But try as he might, Trump can’t escape. His media pursuers have caught on to his Houdini routine:

‘President Donald Trump’s attempt on Tuesday to backpedal on his disastrous remarks siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the stone-faced president read from a monotone prepared statement but deviated several times from it, was eerily reminiscent of the way he handled his infamous false equivalence in response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

‘After accepting Putin’s denial instead of affirming U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Trump on Tuesday tried to reverse course. Reading from prepared remarks, he said that he accepts the intelligence agencies’ conclusion and claimed that he misspoke during Monday’s press conference. (He added ‘that perhaps “other people” were responsible, and reverted to his usual talking point that “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia, which appeared to be unscripted.) [ … ]

‘Many reporters, commentators and other political observers made similar observations, noting that Trump could quickly reverse himself again, just as he did in his response to the events in Charlottesville.’

Indeed, just the day after his “stone-faced,” “monotone” semi-contrition, Trump was right back at it, colluding with fellow Putin-puppet Tucker Carlson on Fox News. (Even worse, the Trump-Carlson duo even blasphemed against the holiest of holies of US national security, Americans’ willingness to risk nuclear annihilation in World War III over tiny, corrupt Montenegro.)

Not only did this two-man, latter-day analogue to the Gunpowder Plot belittle the supposedly proven fact of Russian hacking of the 2016 election (which nonetheless is still disbelieved by almost 40% of Americans!), they took the opportunity to inject a note of – you guessed it!  racism:

‘Carlson used literal white supremacy to defend Trump’s news conference.

‘“I mean I’m not a shrink, so I don’t fully understand it. I mean I don’t think Russia is our close friend or anything like that. I mean, of course, they tried to interfere in our affairs; they have for a long time. Many countries do. Some more successfully than Russia, like Mexico which is routinely interfering in our elections by packing our electorate,” Carlson said, suggesting Mexican immigrants who become naturalized citizens and vote are somehow illegitimate voters.

‘Former FBI Director James Comey criticized Trump for sitting down with Hannity and Carlson.

‘“Having sold out our nation on an international stage, Mr. Trump will now explain it all to Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson? I’m guessing RT and [Sputnik] were unavailable.’

But aside from Carlson, virtually all of Trump’s supposed defenders (mostly on Fox News) agreed entirely with the President’s accusers that questioning the intelligence community was totally impermissible.

Indeed, both his defenders and even Trump himself have tried to deflect criticism by citing the myriad ways in which his Administration has been “tough” on the Russians: sanctions, expelling diplomats, striking Syria twice, and most of all reveling in the slaughter of Russian contractors in Syria.

This reflects a troubling fact that undermines optimism that the Helsinki summit will herald a change for the better in the US-Russia relationship. The fact is, Putin is master in his own house but Trump is not.

There is no order or instruction Trump can give that he can be sure will be carried out, either by the Pentagon or the intelligence community – and certainly not the Justice Department, which blatantly tried to sabotage the summit with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s issuance of avacuous indictment of 12 GRU officers. As described by former CIA intelligence officer Michael Scheuer:

‘Why should any American worry about the unending, manic claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 election? This story, after all, has been made up and perpetuated by aspiring traitors like Clapper, Hayden, Tapper, Acosta, Hillary Clinton, Comey, John Podesta, Maddow, McCabe, Brennan, Page, Strzok, Wray, the reporting staffs of the Washington Post and the New York Times, the Council on Foreign Relations, and most of all, by the foreign-born Obama.

To believe this crew’s statements about anything at all is to believe that John McCain and Lindsay Graham can open their mouths without lying us into yet another interventionist war. […]

‘In the face of what Jefferson surely would call a “long train” of perfidy, treason, obsessive avarice, and murder by the national government, one must ask why would any commonsensical American fail to see that the Russian-meddling narrative is transparently an attempt by Obama leftovers and the seething, quite mad Neocons to push the United States into a new Cold War with Russia, one that would lead to a hot war, as well as a means of keeping themselves out of the slammer and off the gallows.

‘Indeed, there is not a loyal American citizen who has a single credible reason to believe any intelligence-based claims made by the Obama administration, or the Obama leftovers in Trump’s administration, about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The citizenry’s only fair-minded conclusion is that Obama ordered his intelligence and military lieutenants to stand down on responding to “Russian hacking” in summer, 2016, because no such hacking occurred.

Certainly, the two indictments of Russians – written by Obama acolytes led by Rosenstein, Strzok, and old-man, disgrace-to-the-Marines Mueller and his merry band of Trump-hating attorneys — are clearly dreamed-up travesties that would disgrace a first-year law-school student and get him the boot therefrom.’

The bottom line is that, even after Helsinki, Trump remains besieged inside his own Administration. It cannot be said with any assurance that there is a single high official, including Trump’s own appointees, who agrees with the President’s desire for rapprochement with Russia.

Congress is almost entirely against him, as evidenced by a virtually unanimous Senate vote on a nonbinding resolution against treaty-based law enforcement cooperation with Russia (as discussed by the two presidents) and talk of fast-tracking more sanctions legislation.

Even in areas theoretically under Trump’s full control, most importantly his constitutional command of the military, there is pushback. One early deliverable of the summit should be US-Russia cooperation in Syria to help wind down that war.

But General Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, was quick to point out that he’s received no instructions and that under prohibitory legislation enacted in 2014 no such cooperation would be legal without Congressional action to create an exception – which will not be forthcoming.

In a rule of law state, law enforcement should be politically neutral. In most countries it’s not, with those in power using police, prosecutors, and courts as weapons against the opposition. Only in America, and only since Trump’s election, has anyone seen the bizarre phenomenon of election losers abusing law enforcement against the winner.

Even as Trump talks optimistically of a second summit with Putin in Washington in a few months, the criminal Deep State conspiracy against him rolls on with the complicity of top appointees like Rosenstein.

Every effort will continue to be made to ensure no concrete progress can be made on whatever was discussed in Helsinki while maintaining the 24/7 drumbeat of demonization. (There’s even an attempt to force Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki, Marina Gross, to divulge what transpired in private between the presidents. Gross herself may draw suspicion on account of an unconfirmed report that she may actually speak Russian…)

For his part, Trump must seek support from the only direction he can: the tens of millions of “Deplorables” who voted for him. The more the media, the Democrats, and the GOP establishment trash him, the more they are convinced he is on the right track. By doubting the truth of Russian hacking and our sacred NATO obligation to every insignificant country few ordinary Americans could find on a map, he has increasingly mainstreamed those notions with his base.

Trump’s only way forward is continuing to be the wrecking ball he was elected to be. Twitter and his ability to change the subject with outrageous and “impermissible” utterances and actions are his main weapons. In that vein, as long as he’s being accused of treason, he might as well make the most of it:

Mr. Trump, fire Rosenstein and let the chips fall where they may.

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James Clapper rats out his former boss Barack Obama (Video)

Trump-Russia witch hunt started with order from former US President Barack Obama.

Alex Christoforou

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All roads in the Trump-Russia witch hunt lead to Barack Obama…at least that is what his former intelligence czar James Clapper admitted to fake news, CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper admitted in a CNN interview Saturday that former President Obama instigated the ongoing investigations into Donald Trump and his inner circle of advisors and staffer.

Speaking with Anderson Cooper, Clapper mad the stunning admission…

If it weren’t for President Obama we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set up a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today including Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. President Obama is responsible for that. It was he who tasked us to do that intelligence community assessment in the first place.

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Via Zerohedge

Recall in May, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) fired off a letter to the Department of Justice  demanding unredacted versions of text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and former bureau attorney Lisa Page, including one exchange which took place after Strzok had returned from London as part of the recently launched “Operation Crossfire Hurricane”  referring to the White House “running” an unknown investigation.

Strzok had been in London to interview Australian ambassador Alexander Downer about a drunken conversation with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who – after reportedly being fed information – mentioned Russia having Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Strzok: And hi. Went well, best we could have expected. Other than [REDACTED] quote: “the White House is running this.” My answer, “well, maybe for you they are.” And of course, I was planning on telling this guy, thanks for coming, we’ve got an hour, but with Bill [Priestap] there, I’ve got no control….

Page: Yeah, whatever (re the WH comment). We’ve got the emails that say otherwise.

With Clapper’s admission that Obama was in the know the whole time, it looks like Peter Strzok’s text message stating “the White House is running this” was spot on.

House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) told Fox’s Maria Bartiromo that the American public needs to see an unredacted version of the Carter Page FISA application.

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NATO’s eastward push clashes with Church Canons in the Ukraine

Amid other geopolitical machinations on the “Eastern front” there is one that has so far largely passed under the radar although its potential as a crisis detonator (or perhaps more properly, exacerbator) in the Ukraine and the surrounding Eastern Orthodox domains should not be underestimated.

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Petro Poroshenko meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Quite “spontaneously,” as these things are, won’t to happen, agitation at state and ecclesiastical levels in the Ukraine has been turned on to demand autocephaly, which in Orthodox church terminology is self-ruled status for the Orthodox religious community in the Ukraine.

But not for just any of the existing communities (there are at least two major ones, the Orthodox church in spiritual communion with the Russian Orthodox patriarchy in Moscow, and a breakaway group espousing all the politically correct Ukrainian nationalist and Russophobic views). Alert and politically savvy readers should have guessed that in this controversy center-stage is the breakaway, NATO-friendly group.

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The seemingly plausible argument is that since the Ukraine is an “independent” country, it is entitled also to have its own “independent” national Orthodox church to go along with that. That may or may not be so, depending on how church authorities in charge of these matters interpret and apply the relevant provisions of church law, or cannons. But before the issue was even presented to higher church councils for a ruling, the Ukrainian government itself avidly jumped into the fray to support its local Russophobic ecclesiastical proteges.

Needless to say, the Moscow Patriarchy affiliate in the Ukraine, which is followed by a majority of believers in that country, has taken a strong stand against the combined offensive against it of the NATO backed regime and its allies, anti-Russian zealots in cassocks. That means that now a new religious front also has been opened in the portion of Ukraine controlled by the Kiev regime.

It is an attempt to complete the process already begun in the spheres of language, culture, education, history, and a number of other key areas, in this case to extirpate the last vestiges of “malign” Russian spiritual influence by severing the last remaining ecclesiastical link to Moscow. Driving the point home are the fervent partisans of the “native” Ukrainian church, led by defrocked former bishop Philaret Denysenko, now styling himself the new Ukrainian patriarch.

The fact that in the early 90s the same Denysenko, who at that time was an Orthodox bishop, had no qualms about putting forward his candidacy for Patriarch of Russia, and that, although a Russian-speaker, he subsequently embraced Ukrainian nationalism and conveniently developed passionate anti-Russian sentiments only after failing to achieve that objective, is beside the point. What matters is that he has now become a willing tool and visible symbol of the hybrid war being waged by NATO against Russia in the region, a war which in this instance has also a vibrant religious component.

What must be making hybrid war experts at the headquarters in Mons and other centers which attend to such matters jubilant is that igniting a religious confrontation in the Ukraine holds for them much more than merely local benefits. It is equivalent to opening a Pandora’s Box in the most literally geopolitical, and not just purely religious sense of the expression. A dispute of this nature cannot be properly settled either within the Ukraine itself or by means of intra-church dialogue between Kiev and Moscow.

In the Orthodox world it is possible for a national church to gain self-rule, or autocephaly, but only under strictly prescribed conditions designed to preserve church unity and harmony. That means, at a minimum, that the consent of the Mother Church (in this case the Moscow Patriarchate) is required, as well as the approval of all the other churches around the world which form the Orthodox communion. And on top of that, to greatly complicate matters, there is also the ambiguous role in this process of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchy in Constantinople (Istanbul).

That see traditionally enjoys the position of “first among equals,” and it is not expected to act unilaterally but in consultation with other churches in resolving important issues. In the last couple of decades, however, it has notably tried to shake off those institutional constraints and has sought to turn itself into the Orthodox equivalent of the Roman Catholic Vatican.

The precarious position of the Ecumenical Patriarchy in Turkey, where it has very few, mostly ethnic Greek, followers remaining and is under heavy, and frankly unreasonable pressure from the essentially hostile Turkish government, since about the middle of the last century has motivated its patriarchs to seek the friendship and protection of Western NATO powers, simply to survive. That protection, however, did not come free of charge. Increasingly, and in particular during the Cold War period, the Ecumenical patriarch has been obligated to actively support various Western political initiatives. The increasingly Islamist complexion of the Turkish regime has now made toeing the Western line an existential necessity to an even greater degree.

Hence the unprecedented move by Poroshenko, during his visit to Turkey in April, taking a practical shortcut to resolve the Ukrainian situation without waiting first for a broad Orthodox Church consensus on the issue to emerge. Instead, Poroshenko urged directly the trapped  Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to personally, and without bothering to consult peers, issue to Denysenko and his Kiev flock a grant of self-rule, in the requested form as patriarch of the NATO-invented and anointed “Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

To sweeten the deal, Poroshenko was supposed to bring in his coffers $25 million collected by devout Ukrainian oligarchs in the US, as a humble offering to patriarch Bartholomew to take a benevolent view of the fervent plea delivered to him on behalf of the Ukrainian faithful. Remarkably, the delivery of only a $10 million gift to the Patriarchy was recorded by the time the pious emoluments actually reached their destination in Istanbul. Where the missing $15 million might have evaporated can only be guessed, but given the Ukrainians’ sticky fingers when handling cash it does not require a long stretch of the imagination.

Predictably, the Russian Orthodox Patriarchy took a very dim view of such back-door church politicking lubricated with plenty of cash, even if one considers only the diminished sum that actually reached the designated recipients. Its foreign relations spokesman, Metropolitan Hilarion, warned the patriarch in Istanbul that he was playing with fire by turning a receptive ear to Kiev’s entreaties because, in his view, granting Ukrainian church self-rule (autocephaly) in disregard of canonical regulations would be “to cause a Great Schism equivalent to the one that occurred a thousand years ago”.

It should not be forgotten that this is no idle threat because the Russian church is the most numerous among Orthodox nations and a split between it and the Ecumenical see in Istanbul would plunge the entire Orthodox world into disarray. But that is just what the NATO doctors ordered, isn’t it?

It is, of course, quite normal for officials of the Russian church to seek to protect their faithful and safeguard their status in the Ukraine. But the impending, NATO-engineered convulsion, using the alleged spiritual needs of its Ukrainian colony as a hollow pretext, unleashed within the Orthodox religious community which sits astride the arc of geopolitical competition stretching from the Balkans to Russia, and from the Black Sea basin into the Caucasus, with a significant historical presence throughout the Middle East, is fraught with serious implications.

For one thing, its clear purpose is to add another layer to the campaign to “isolate Russia,” this time around by disrupting Russia’s spiritual and cultural ties to other kindred Orthodox lands, which may soon face a contrived “religious” choice between Moscow and Istanbul. The fact that the “choice” is couched in seemingly canonical rather than unapologetically and crudely political terms, makes it no less political.

Via Strategic Culture

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