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Discussing America with Russians over a cup of tea

The geopolitical surprises just seem to keep coming

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Accusations, posturing and hysterical finger pointing is oddly the weird new normal in our world. It reminds me of an old market truism – ‘buy the rumors, sell the facts’. Amplified by continued demonization of all things Russian, including their newly re-elected president, I was curious to get current views here on the ground among connected influential Russians and just share them.

I called and met many friends, business partners and contacts in Russia whom I have known for years, some in business, politics and some in government. The result of my informal chats over tea or coffee was largely as I had expected, though it may be of interest to those not living and working in Russia. I spoke with many people, I will just cover three otherwise this opinion piece would make Tolstoy’s War & Peace look like a leaflet.

Tatiana:

One friend whom I met and spoke with about the current state of affairs is involved in Russian politics, and a highly placed champion of what is known here as the “liberal opposition”. “I am depressed. For most of my life, America symbolized for me the virtues of openness, truth, unfettered objective press, constitutional law, showing the rights and obligations which allow a democracy to function well in the world, regardless of who is at the helm. It was the example set for other countries to follow. It was like a story from some distant mythical land of long ago, perhaps a Camelot, and just as illusory it seems to me now.

Russia is still a work in progress, a tremendous amount of vision, sweat and effort have and will continue to be spent in the re-birth of my country from the chaos of less than nothing 20-/+ years ago. There is much that we have done that is successful, that we all are proud of, and we are the first to see what still has to be done – corruption, special interests, in short everything the rest of the nations on this planet also have to deal with in their own ways and in their own particular contexts.

We are not perfect, we know this well, but we will raise up our country in spite of any difficulties or pressures. There is a basic reality, we are Russian. We are not Americans or British or Germans, Italians, Turks, Japanese or Greeks. The several popularized brands of democracy that work in each of those nations is not what works for Russia in this time and space, it would be wrong, and forcing the issue will lead to failure. Russia is developing democratically, but in its own time and own terms – we have patience, and we will succeed eventually but not to the beat of any other nations drums or timelines.

It has taken a very painful period of soul searching for me to arrive at an undeniable truth, which was my degree of deep disenchantment. That the America I cherished is far from the ideal it has marketed to the world so well for decades. The strongest feeling I have is one of deep personal betrayal of both trust and faith. It was obvious back in the communist era that there was an ideological standoff, and that the American brand of democracy and the Soviet brand of communism were antithetical, oil and water, never to mix. It was Burger King versus Kotletki. This was an understandable state of affairs, and largely justified. There was an understanding that once the failed ideology of communism was off the table, and Russia turned to become an open market capitalist model with a developing political infrastructure, then there would no longer be any ideological conflict as our goals were largely the same as in the west.

Freedom to pray to whatever faith you ascribe to is deeply rooted nationwide, freedom to travel anywhere, freedom to make and spend your money as you wish, freedom to do business, freedom to responsibly and accountably protest or set out arguments for change can and are heard, freedom to vote or not to, and more. We have just had an election. Whatever others or I may wish for, it was indeed a democratic election without pressure. True, we all knew who would win, and the vast majority of our people are pleased with the win and supportive of the result.

That is the bottom line – the vast majority voted for,appreciate and do support this president. They do so in this time and place that demands consistency and follow-through, and while he may be the only realistic show in town today, he has proven himself capable and with the right intentions for the country’s internal interests. Eventually we may become an “either/or” country like America, but for now continuity and stability are preferable to experimentation and potential chaos – for we have seen both many times in our past. I can only imagine if we had an election hangover like the Trump/Clinton election paralyzing and dividing our country for more than a year after – no thank you.

Now it is apparent to me that the acceptance of Russia as a sovereign nation by the group of ‘free’ nations led by the US is wholly contingent on Russia accepting a subservient role, politically, economically and culturally. To my way of thinking, a sovereign nation has the power to do everything necessary to govern itself, such as making, executing, and applying its own laws; imposing and collecting taxes fairly; making war and peace as needed; and forming treaties or engaging in commerce with foreign nations. One example, for instance is the United States of America, which enjoys such status. I cannot say the same for many of the member nations within the EU construct, or the EU itself, even the UK, but that is their business and certainly not ours to tinker with, disparage or try to change. Russia is not exporting its views or waging any idealogical marketing campaigns, or evangelizing on how other nations should live their lives. Our priorities are first of all Russia, and keeping to our commitments with friends and allies, it’s as simple as that.

When I travel to America and several European countries, especially these past 5 years I return home almost speechless at the degree of orchestrated misunderstanding that has poisoned public perception through western media and politicians against Russia. The facts simply do not hold water if they ever are examined dispassionately.

Throughout it all I have tried to see things from a western perspective, I have gone to great lengths speaking with friends in many countries, most of whom are as shocked as I am at the positions taken in the west. I have seen disinformation and felt its claws throughout my youth in those communist times, but it pales compared to the media assault directed against my country today by the paragons of all that is supposedly free, correct and ethical. Perhaps having had the privilege to grow up and live inside such initially democratic systems, it makes it easier to disregard and make a parody of what made them special, or am I mistaken?

To my way of thinking and most Russians, being free and independent means not having to parrot the ideas of anyone, both as sovereign individuals or as a sovereign nation, it is as simple as that. Thinking and acting in the best interests of yourself, your family, town, and country. One of the many principles I have always respected that are embodied in the US constitution was that people were not to be pre-judged, they were accepted as being innocent until and unless proven guilty in an independent court of law. Those values have certainly been trashed at least on the international political and diplomatic front in the US, UK and Brussels. There is no dissonance in goals or values between Russia and the western world, this confrontation has been manufactured and marketed worldwide by the land of the free and home of the bravely exceptional, but to what democratic purpose if any? And why should it be at all when our peoples visions and values mostly correspond?”

Alexander:

A successful influential CEO who heads an international Russian based resources holding company. Much of what was said earlier were also part of Alex’s views, but his emphasis was trade and financial. “Conspiracies are usually nonsense, like the secret more than one person knows – it does not remain secret for long. That being said, something discordant is afoot in our world and the root causes of just about anything political or economic leads to, or is led by money. Today, and for the last 70+ years since Bretton Woods global money was the US Dollar. Since Nixon delinked gold from the dollar, and the simultaneous creation then of Petro Dollars, Euro Dollars and so forth, the breadth and depth of US Dollar domination in our world just kept growing. The global financial and trading system is dominated by the dollar, and by virtue of that domination, it has also become for lack of a more appropriate description – weaponized. It is a constantly threatening stick whether you eat of the carrot or not… not very democratic.

The other side of the dollar is the inconvenient and massive debt pegged to that fiat currency throughout the world. This debt mainly finances the USA’s ability to project its sometimes peculiar brand of PC behavior, subsidized and financed by countries having little recourse other than to buy US bonds supporting such policies. It has come to the point that if you are well entrenched in dealing with only the US dollar, you must accept and accede to whatever behavior modification program Washington demands of you, or else go cold turkey for your dollar fix.

The EU and UK and several other allied to the US nations are a case in point – no serious discussion, no objective analysis, not much real professional diplomacy, and almost no respect for cultures whatsoever. It is sort of like the attitudes and Pavolvian abuse I used to get when simply enjoying a cigarette after class at Stanford on the quad…it isn’t forbidden, but you are regarded as a serial killer. Oh well, it is California, even by US standards they are off the wall.

George W. Bush once said ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’, well that pretty much could have been uttered today in DC as well. Let us remember the famous seemingly eternal Jackson–Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974. It was originally intended to affect U.S. trade relations with countries of the Communist bloc that restrict freedom of emigration and other human rights. It remained in place and pressuring Russia long after communism was replaced by capitalism. When finally it was lifted in 2012 it was immediately substituted by the Magnitsky Act which is an example of unfounded and unproven rumor becoming legislation. Therefore, the stick remains in play regardless of anything, especially proof, only the word of a carpetbagger like Browder and his Hermitage with whom I am very familiar, hence incredulous. When Crimea re-joined Russia in 2014, even more trade limitations were introduced despite the reality that the majority of the population of Crimea yearned and voted to rejoin Russia, hence sanctions, even more sticks in our country’s wheels. It interested me to look into how many sanctions programs the United States has going today, the list is impressive and I even have it saved here on my iPhone, I’ll post it to you (he did, and here it is):

Active current US Sanctions Programs and date of inception: Balkans-Related Sanctions 02/03/2017, Belarus Sanctions 10/24/2017, Burundi Sanctions  06/02/2016, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) 03/15/2018, Central African Republic Sanctions  12/13/2017, Counter Narcotics Trafficking Sanctions 03/06/2018, Counter Terrorism Sanctions 03/22/2018, Cuba Sanctions  02/09/2018, Cyber-related Sanctions 03/23/2018, Democratic Republic of the Congo-Related Sanctions 02/05/2018, Global Magnitsky Sanctions 12/21/2017, Iran Sanctions 01/12/2018, Iraq-Related Sanctions  12/27/2017, Lebanon-Related Sanctions 07/30/2010, Libya Sanctions 02/26/2018, Magnitsky Sanctions 12/20/2017, Non-Proliferation Sanctions 01/12/2018, North Korea Sanctions 03/01/2018, Rough Diamond Trade Controls 05/21/2008, Somalia Sanctions 07/05/2012, Sudan and Darfur Sanctions  10/12/2017, South Sudan-related Sanctions 09/06/2017, Syria Sanctions 06/21/2017, Transnational Criminal Organizations  01/30/2018, Ukraine-/Russia-Related Sanctions  03/15/2018, Venezuela-Related Sanctions 03/19/2018, Yemen-Related Sanctions 04/14/2015, Zimbabwe Sanctions.

Many sanctions. Yet how many of them are in reality broadly supported in the international arena? How many countries levy such controls over free trade to themselves influence America’s unilateral actions? We have not yet come to treaties and tariffs, the stuff of open trade or conversely trade wars. The United States has a number of treaties and agreements in place, I will also post them to you (he did so again):

Andean Community (1969), ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) – 2010, ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) 1992, Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) 1975, Central American Integration System (SICA) 1993, Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) 1992, Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area (CISFTA) 2011, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) 1994, G-3 Free Trade Agreement 1995, Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) 1997, Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) 2004, East African Community (EAC) 2005, European Economic Area (EEA; European Union–Norway–Iceland–Liechtenstein) 1994, European Union Customs Union (EUCU; European Union–Turkey–Monaco–San Marino–Andorra) 1958, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) 1960, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 1981, International Grains Agreement 1995, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 1994, Pacific Alliance Free Trade Area (PAFTA) 2012, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP = ASEAN plus 6), South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) 2004, Southern African Development Community Free Trade Area (SADCFTA) 1980, Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) 1991.

With such negotiated agreements and treaties in place, I am surprised that just recently the new administration in the US has declared that it shall unilaterally cancel, and then renegotiate many of them, notably NAFTA, and ASEAN that are making the news now.

This trend is extending beyond just trade. The number of international agreements have given birth to “judicial” or “legislative” bodies that have come to interpret and expand obligations well beyond what was set out in the underlying treaties, placing them beyond the effective control of domestic or international institutions. This trend has and does raise fears among nations that they will continue to see their sovereign authority erode, a sacrifice to populist political bluster and being force fed economic programs that may not be congruent with their own county’s needs or interests.

My pet theory is that some of the treaties the US is threatening to cancel will in fact be only very gently amended, but in exchange for this generosity, the US will expect a quid pro quo broad coalition of those same nations to stand behind its very specific tariff and trade war with China. Similarly as many members of the EU have been pressured to support the (probably) eternal sanctions against Russia. This at a time when America’s dominance in the Southeast Asian region is increasingly fragile, and likely to erode further without such broad backing – who knows, time will tell if my view has any weight.

What most if not all these free trade agreements have in common is that the US Dollar one way or another is the transferring medium. That in itself is not such a bad thing, but it is a unipolar monopoly, this has implications especially if like any reasonable businessman you want to diversify your risk exposure to something other than the fiat dollar, Euro, or Yen. This then leaves the Yuan as the last reserve currency in the basket, and this leads to another stink that also affects my Russia as we are neighbors, and that is the trade position US administration is now taking with China. A decision was made just this week unilaterally impose significant tariffs on imports from China, which is another stick on the back of the US rule-based global trading system camel. The sum by today’s standards is not much, only 60 billion US dollars, but it will have wide consequences, unintended or not.

I do a lot of good business with China, and aside from the numbers of business, there is a very important factor of ‘face’. It is of consequence, and it matters. It should not be taken lightly and should never be dismissed. Therefore, we will probably witness an escalating trade war between the US and China as well since Washington is pressing China to reduce its 375-billion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by 100 billion dollars as soon as possible. I often ask myself – who agreed and allowed such a trade imbalance in the first place? I am concerned that these sanctions and trade battles will undermine multilateral trading systems and destabilize the global economy that has apparently just started to recover from the US originated globally dollarized financial crisis 10 years ago.

The geopolitical surprises just seem to keep coming, as if it were not enough to sanction Russia, and initiate a trade war with China, there is the very real possibility in the coming days that the US will try to re-impose sanctions on Iran. This can only increase already high tensions between the two countries and the entire middle eastern region, but that is a whole epic by itself. As my Rabbi says – you will reap what you sow – that is the truth, we wait for the shoe to drop.

On Monday March 26th, China activated their Yuan denominated oil futures contract with gold convertibility (As it turned out, around 12 million barrels of Shanghai’s most-active September contract changed hands in the first 55 minutes of trade, more than the most-active contract for Brent).

I have no doubt that Iran, and many others in the oil business will eventually see their way clear to using that exchange and avoid the strings of the US dollar. We in Russia are now preparing to sell $1 billion worth of yuan-denominated bonds in 2018, which will be a small supportive step for the yuan as it grows to be a significant global currency.

As concerns my company, we have positioned ourselves to trade our oil on the Shanghai exchange for Yuan-Gold. I do this because it is close to our disports, pipelines and customers, and makes diversified financial sense. Recently we have shifted our portfolio positions to reflect a much larger percentage in physical gold assets as we feel this will be key in the years to come. There is an extra plus too, I will sleep calmly at night knowing I am not contributing to the new 2018 US budget of $1.3 trillion in additional debt that will never be repaid with value!”

Michael:

The Skripal incident in Salisbury is just the latest dust up coming out of the UK/EU with accusations against Russia and Putin in particular. I decided to ask a man I have known for some time who is closely associated with the state security services. Michael’s reaction to this sad affair was rather emphatic, which in translation I have paraphrased: “What utter and complete rubbish. Yes, there are times when it may be judged in the interests of any nation, even the US, UK or the gaggle that is the EU to take extreme measures such as an ordered killing. Such cases truth be told are extremely rare and extreme. If they were then carried out, it would be planned and done with care without complexity, publicity or drama. In watching the news and listening to what the political leaders in the UK and now even the EU are saying it just beggars belief.

First, if a WMD such as Novichok or any VX were used I assure you that Mr. Skripal and his daughter would not be alive today in an ICU, nor would any first responders who arrived without NBC or similar Hazmat shielded body protection, or the photographers snapping close-up pictures of the place. In short, there would be quite a number of tragic deaths. This is as fishy as the “white helmets” in Syria working without Hazmat protection in areas where supposedly Sarin was deployed against people – it cannot happen without themselves being counted among the dead, or at best thoroughly incapacitated.

Personally, I have never heard of that substance or anything similar being used in anything other than controlled military testing environments many years ago. Secondly, using a nerve agent like a Novichok in reality is simply impractical to use on an individual target, you would have to be nuts, suicidal or delusional to consider it. I do not doubt that somebody attempted to poison the man, but in my opinion, tasked professionals did not carry it out. If it were state sanctioned, I am personally certain such a folly did not come from Russia, now or ever. There are other players who need such melodrama far more than us to suit their worldviews or paint their perspectives.  Look, I know the bureaucracy of our security services, and this cluster-fuck would not have had any chance of consideration or approval – it is just that simple.

More likely, it was for a far more banal reason such as a local business or personal conflict, when such facts will no doubt reveal themselves clearly over time – then it will probably be relegated to some obscure column on the 10th page of a UK newspaper as an inconvenient truth. I cannot even speculate on what toxin was used, but it was not anything close to a military grade nerve agent.

I am not a little put out by what I call this new Twitter diplomacy, it makes noise and dances around issues but doesn’t do the job that must be done which is to sit down with counterparts and talk face to face. There seems to be a new PC stigma certainly in the US that must frighten politicians from meeting or speaking with Russians, it is absurd. That is the role of diplomacy, and that is the way to sorting out truth from lies. I am not aware of anything of value that happens without dialogue and Q&A which can only happen when people are willing to meet and sort things out. It is not Rocket Science after all.

As for the noise and accusations, I can only say that this reminds me of some Hollywood fantasy script. Vladimir Putin has been typecast by the west to be the embodiment of Le Chifre, Auric Goldfinger, Hugo Drax and Francisco Scaramanga all rolled into one, and Russia as a whole is cast as SPECTRE. This is all a ridiculously silly tragic diversion of everyone’s time and intellect, with very real and dangerous consequences, and to what purpose? It helps no-one, and all people shall ultimately lose with such undisciplined undiplomatic schizophrenia running amok.”

***

I have tried to faithfully capture the words, spirit and emotion of these talks; in any event, I hope it is of interest. Maybe I’ll cherry pick some other items in the future, but for now, this seems adequate.

 

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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