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Lugansk Republic President flees to Moscow, Interior Minister now in charge

Compared to the much more stable Donetsk Republic, Lugansk has been riven by internal strife

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(IRRUSSIANALITY) – The political shenanigans in the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) in Eastern Ukraine took a new turn today when LPR President Igor Plotnitsky fled the republic and turned up in Moscow. Power in Lugansk now rests firmly in the hands of LPR Interior Minister Igor Kornet, who continues to insist that he doesn’t intend to overthrow Plotnitsky, merely rid the republic of traitors in the President’s entourage. Kornet’s forces have arrested a number of senior LPR officials, accusing them of working secretly for the Ukrainian government in Kiev and of preparing to betray the LPR to the Ukrainian Army. I don’t believe it. My impression is that in the LPR treason is what you accuse your opponents of when you want an excuse to get rid of them. Be that as it may, the events in the LPR put the Russian government in something of a pickle.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Moscow isn’t in full control of events in Donbass. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any say in what goes on, nor does it mean that it can just ignore what happens there. It seems to me that it has the following options:

  • Recognize that Plotnitsky is a busted flush, discard him, and back Kornet. So far, the Russian government is insisting that what happens in Lugansk is an internal matter for the LPR. Maintaining this line would in effect amount to endorsing Kornet’s coup. The question would then arise of how to find a new President and who it should be.
  • Try and work out some solution which returns Plotnitsky to Lugansk as President, but which in effect makes him little more than a figurehead while real power remains with Kornet.
  • Find some way of restoring Plotnitsky to his previous position of authority.
  • Get around the whole problem by abolishing the LPR and merging it with the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), and forming a joint ‘Novorossiia’.

The third option – restoring Plotnitsky – seems rather impractical. The Russians aren’t going to want to start a civil war within a civil war, so military action against Kornet is probably out of the question. Perhaps some diplomatic way could be found to pressure him to give up, by for instance making it very clear to him that if he continues on his current path, Moscow will cut all support to the LPR. But such a threat isn’t very credible. This is one of those situations where the patron pretty much has to cave into the client. Reversing the coup would probably be a bad option for Moscow even if it were what it actually wanted.

In some respects, the fourth option – merger of the LPR and DPR – appears optimal. The DPR has always given me the impression of being much better governed than the LPR, and its leader, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, has a charisma which Plotnitsky lacks. The DPR no doubt looks pretty attractive from a LPR point of view. A merger would in practice probably be a DPR takeover, and might well strengthen both republics. It is, after all, somewhat ridiculous that such a small geographic area as rebel-controlled Donbass should have two separate governments and two separate armies.

dprlnr

The LPR admires the DPR. A meme doing the rounds on Twitter.

But while this option makes some sense, there are some problems with it. The only two ‘democratic’ votes which have taken place in the history of the LPR and DPR are the referenda of May 2014 which established the republics and the presidential elections of November 2014. Of course, one can argue about the quality of these elections and how truly democratic they really were, but the referenda and the elections allow the republics’ leaders to make a claim of legitimacy. Were Plotnitsky to be replaced, it’s hard to see what claim to legitimacy his successor could make. And since the LPR was established by referendum, it can be argued that it can only be dismantled by referendum. In a sense this is just a matter of formalities, but formalities matter, which is why even the Soviet Union went through the motions of elections.

Another problem with getting rid of Plotnitsky is that he signed the Minsk agreements, which provide the supposed road map to a peace settlement in Ukraine. If he goes, then his successor could claim to not be bound by the agreement. Moreover, if the DPR and LPR merge, then Kiev might have grounds to claim that since the quasi-states whose leaders signed the Minsk agreements no longer exist, it also is no longer bound by the agreements. That’s not something which Moscow would want.

So, it might be better to keep Plotnitsky. But it’s obvious that even if he were to return to Lugansk, he wouldn’t have any meaningful authority. One would imagine that Moscow wants to have its own man in the top spot in Lugansk, somebody it can count on to do what Moscow tells it when push comes to shove. But a Plotnitsky who’s more a puppet of Kornet than a puppet of Moscow wouldn’t be able to fulfil that role.

Overall, then, there aren’t any good options for Moscow. At this point, Kiev is probably enjoying the spectacle and thinking that things are going its way. But that might not be true either. A few weeks ago, LPR Foreign Minister Vladislav Deinovo remarked that Lugansk’s future lay back in Ukraine. Given that Kornet is justifying his insurrection on the grounds that LPR officials were conspiring to betray the republic to Kiev, one suspects that nobody in the LPR is going to be publicly repeating what Deinovo said for some time to come. An uncompromising line towards Ukraine is more likely.

In short, it’s a mess. I make no predictions as to what will happen next.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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