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Russia’s Olympians win case against International Olympic Committee

Alexander Mercouris

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Two months ago, when the International Olympic Committee decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee and to ban Russian athletes from competing in the coming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea under their own flag – allowing only a selected few Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag and by invitation only – I expressed in an article for RussiaFeed my own total incomprehension at this decision.

I said that the decision seemed to me to make no legal sense since it contradicted the findings of the International Olympic Committee’s own Schmid report, which concluded that there was no evidence of any government organised state sponsored doping scheme in Russia

Schmid – somewhat grudgingly but nonetheless conclusively – admits that there is in fact no evidence of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia

….the independent and impartial evidence do not allow the IOC DC to establish with certitude either who initiated or who headed this scheme.

On many occasions, reference was made on the involvement at the Minister of Sport’s level, but no indication, independent or impartial evidence appeared to corroborate any involvement or knowledge at a higher level of the State.

Elsewhere Schmid admits that the doping scheme in Russia did not involve all Russian athletes – a sure indication by the way that it was not government organised or state sponsored – and that it was different from the doping scheme in the former German Democratic Republic, which of course was both government organised and state sponsored.

Given that this is so, why is former Sports Minister Mutko against whom no evidence of wrongdoing exists being banned from participating in the Olympic Games for the rest of his life?

Why is the Russian Olympic Committee being suspended, when no evidence of the involvement of any of its members in the doping scheme exists?……

The anti-doping systems now put in place in Russia are now universally acknowledged to be just about the best in the world……

Given that this is so and that there is no longer any possibility of Russian athletes engaging in a massive doping conspiracy in the coming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, why is action being taken to prevent them competing on the same basis as everyone else?……

In reality the decision of the International Olympic Committee to ban certain Russians from involvement in the Olympic Movement, to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee, and to allow only specially invited Russian athletes to compete in the Winter Olympics and then only under the Olympic flag, has nothing to do either with sport or doping or the principles of legality.

The sequel was that the Russians – grudgingly and perhaps wrongly – agreed to the International Olympic Committee’s terms so as to permit those Russian athletes who wanted to compete in the PyeongChang Games and could obtain invitations from the International Olympic Committee to do so.

However he situation then went from bad to worse, with the International Olympic Committee banning Russian athletes against whom no evidence of involvement in doping exists or has ever existed.

The decisions moreover were made in secret, with no real explanation of how or why they were being made.

Russian bafflement and anger at these seemingly whimsical and arbitrary decisions was made abundantly clear at a meeting on 31st January 2018 which President Putin held with those Russian athletes who had managed to secure invitations to compete in the PyeongChang Games from the International Olympic Committee.

After apologising to the athletes for the Russian government’s failure to protect them President Putin had this to say

At the same time, while admitting our own failures, mistakes, lack of attention to the things relevant and important in modern sports, we really hope that our colleagues in international sport organisations will do everything to make sure these organisations do not become departments of certain countries’ government bodies, no matter how powerful and influential these countries seem at first glance. We really hope for this kind of attitude towards this matter, towards sports, and rely on their courage.

We realise that modern sport is linked with sponsorship, advertising and everything else that accompanies major international competitions. But if modern international sports and the Olympic movement lose the main element of sport, which unites peoples and countries, all of it will become pointless. In this case the appeal of the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin “O Sport, You are Peace!” will lose its meaning.

We will do everything to prevent this from happening. We will work with international organisations and support, as I said, our athletes who did not make it to the Olympics.

Some things really seem strange to us in this context. As you know, many of them were allegedly banned from the Games for the totality of circumstances not related to doping. What are we fighting against then? Doping or something else? We would like to know what it is.

(bold italics added)

The highlighted words show that the Russians believe that the International Olympic Committee is being pressured by threats to withdraw sponsorship and advertising coming from Western countries, first and foremost the United States.

Other Russian officials have made their anger clear in far less measured terms.  Nikolay Patrushev, the powerful secretary of Russia’s Security Council, has said that if the International Olympic Committee continues on its present course it risks the break-up of the Olympic Movement.  .

I suspect that the Russians privately believe that the true reason why Russian athletes with clean records were being banned was because they were seen as posing an increasingly dangerous threat to the medal hopes of US athletes.

There also seems to have been a secondary desire to humiliate Russia by knocking it off its position at the top of the Sochi Winter Games’ medal table.

The anger in Russia on this issue perhaps explains the current runaway success in Russia of the film ‘Going Vertical’, which tells the story of how the Soviet basketball team beat the US national team at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.  Reuters has this to say about popular reaction to this film in Russia

After taking more than 2.2 billion roubles ($38.88 million) at the box office in just over three weeks, the film, financed by the state, has become the country’s most successful home grown production in rouble terms, watched by over 9 million people or approximately one in 12 registered voters.

During one packed Moscow showing this week, some audience members broke into spontaneous applause and others wiped tears from their eyes at decisive moments in the narrative.

Regardless, the first legal consequences of the International Olympic Committee’s decisions became evident today when three separate panels of the Lausanne based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) unanimously decided to lift lifetime bans imposed by the International Olympic Committee on 28 Russian athletes against whom no evidence of doping violations exists, and to reduce the time limits of bans imposed on 11 others.

The Russians are hailing these decisions as a breakthrough, and perhaps they are.

However it is testament to the implacable attitudes of some people that the International Olympic Committee is saying that it may defy these CAS decisions, so that the Russians athletes whose bans CAS has lifted may still be prevented from participating in the PyeongChang Games.  In addition the International Olympic Committee is also saying that it is considering appealing the CAS decisions to the Swiss Federal Appeal Court.

That the Olympic Charter apparently says that the International Olympic Committee is bound by CAS’s decisions, and that defiance of those decisions may therefore be contrary to the Olympic Charter, apparently is neither here nor there.

Meanwhile the CAS decisions have provoked a furious reaction from the usual suspects.

An article by Martha Kelner in the Guardian harshly criticises the International Olympic Committee not for acting illegally by banning clean athletes against whom no evidence of doping violations exists, but for not going further by imposing a blanket ban on all Russian athletes, irrespective of whether they are guilty or not

First there was the news that the Russian athletes permitted to compete as neutrals would still be introduced on the start line as being from Russia. Then came the announcement that the Russian flag may appear at the closing ceremony as their national anthem booms around the stadium and into homes around the world. Last week it was revealed that, of a pool of 389 Russian athletes, 169 would be allowed to compete in South Korea.

We should have anticipated this really. By caveating its ban with the provision that Russian athletes who could “prove” they are clean would be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang, the IOC left itself with wriggle room. But the ruling of Cas has exposed a gaping hole that leaves many asking whether the lawyers should have realised the potential for this unravelling – especially as the IOC president, Thomas Bach, is a former Cas lawyer.

The IOC could have followed the blueprint of the International Paralympic Committee, which successfully banned Russian athletes from Rio 2016, or the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, which did the same. But instead it issued lifetime bans on 45 athletes which history should have told it were unenforceable

In other words the International Olympic Committee should have imposed a collective punishment on Russian athletes by banning all of them regardless of whether they are innocent or not because they are Russians.

Needless to say that is not only completely illegal; it is also grossly discriminatory and morally wrong.

Kelner justifies her call by citing the “overwhelming evidence” of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia, whose existence supposedly has been “proved”.  CAS supposedly made the “wrong” decisions because it ignored the existence of this conspiracy which has been “proved”

A month before Rio 2016 a report authored by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren found overwhelming evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia. So why – more than 18 months later – are we a week away from another Olympic Games wondering yet again how many Russian athletes will be competing?…

There are questions also to be asked of Cas about how it has dealt with these cases. It seems they have been treated like any other anti-doping violation appeal dropped through the Cas letterbox in Lausanne, Switzerland. That is to say each case has been treated individually, ignoring what is proven evidence of a state-run system….

This verdict has given Russia some serious arsenal in the propaganda war and it is already claiming that it proves talk of state-sponsored doping was overblown. For all the posturing, once again the clean athletes are the victims here and their turmoil goes on.

The Schmid report in fact found no evidence – much less “overwhelming evidence” – of a government organised state sponsored doping scheme in Russia, and in evidence given to Schmid Professor McLaren himself in effect admitted that he had no proof that a government organised state sponsored doping scheme had been operating in Russia.

I say this because Professor McLaren admitted to Schmid that he had no proof that Vitaly Mutko – Russia’s Sports Minister, who would have had to have been involved in any government organised state sponsored scheme – had any knowledge of the doping which was going on,

As for Kelner’s suggestion that Russian athletes should be denied the right to prove their innocence, I am quite simply at a loss to know what to say, other than that attitudes to Russians in Britain must be very bad indeed if it has now become so easy to demand that Russians be denied their right to prove their innocence simply because they are Russians.

The Russians for their part are saying that if the International Olympic Committee continues to defy the CAS decisions by preventing Russian athletes whose bans have been lifted from participating in the PyeongChang Games then they will bring legal action against the International Olympic Committee in the Swiss civil courts.

I have no doubt that they will do so, and given the CAS decisions I have no doubt they will win.

As for the appeal to the Swiss Federal Appeal Court that the International Olympic Committee is talking about, I cannot see what possible grounds there are for it, and I am sure if it is ever brought it will fail.

The next couple of days will show what the International Olympic Committee will now do.

Hopefully sense will finally prevail and talk of talk of pointless appeals and further legal action will fade.

If so there may be grounds for hope of a belated return to sanity, and for a line to be drawn under this unhappy affair

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The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

RT

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Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?

Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”

The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.

A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.

The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.

At the time of the scandal, former CIA director John Brennan went on MSNBC to state that the Khashoggi’s death would be the downfall of MBS. Furthermore, the US Senate just voted in favour of ending American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (a somewhat symbolic victory, though this is a topic for another article), but nonetheless was a clear stab at MBS personally.

The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’s unfaltering support for MBS, even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS, was the US president himself. So after years of bombarding Yemen, sponsoring terror groups across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and beyond, why is it only now that there has been mounting opposition to Saudi Arabia’s leadership? Let’s just bear in mind that western media had spent years investing in a heavy PR campaign to paint MBS as a “reformer.”

Former national security adviser under Barack Obama’s second term, Susan Rice, wrote an article in the New York Times, in which she called MBS a “partner we can’t depend on.” Rice concludes that MBS is “not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner of the United States and our allies.” But why is this? Is it because MBS is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses inside his own kingdom as well as in Yemen? Is it because of MBS’ support for groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda? No, according to Rice, we “should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make it clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammad continues to wield unlimited power.”

One will observe that the latter segment of Rice’s article almost mirrors former CIA director Brennan’s word on MSNBC word for word who stated that:

“I think ultimately this is going to come out. And it’s very important for us to maintain the relations with Saudi Arabia. And if it’s Mohammed bin Salman who’s the cancer here, well, we need to be able to find ways to eliminate the cancer and to move forward with this relationship that is critical to regional stability and our national interests.”

In reality, this is probably the issue that western media and government advisors have taken up with MBS. Aside from the fact he allegedly held a huge hand in the brutal murder of one of their own establishment journalists (Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured and killed another journalist not long after Khashoggi, but western media was eerily silent on this incident) MBS is not opposed for his reckless disregard for human rights. With insight into Rice’s mindset, we actually learn that if the US were to punish MBS, he would be likely to “behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners.”

You see, the problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers met in Vienna at the year’s final big OPEC meeting of the year. As Foreign Policy notes, Saudi Arabia remains the largest oil producer inside OPEC but has to contend with the US and Russia who are “pumping oil at record levels.” Together, the three countries are the world’s biggest oil producers, meaning any coordinated decision made between these three nations can be somewhat monumental.

However, it appears that one of these three nations will end up drawing the short end of the stick as the other two begin forming a closer alliance. As Foreign Policy explains:

“But Saudi Arabia has bigger game in mind at Vienna than just stabilizing oil prices. Recognizing that it can’t shape the global oil market by itself anymore but rather needs the cooperation of Russia, Saudi Arabia is hoping to formalize an ad hoc agreement between OPEC and Moscow that began in 2016, a time when dirt-cheap oil also posed a threat to oil-dependent regimes. That informal agreement expires at the end of the year, but the Saudis would like to make Russia’s participation with the cartel more permanent.”

Russian officials have been signalling their intention to formalise this agreement for quite some time now. Given the hysteria in western media about any and all things Russian, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is the kind of news that is not sitting too well with the powers-that-be.

Earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced that it would “institutionalize” the two-year-old bilateral agreement to coordinate oil production targets in order to maintain an edge on the global market.

While US president Trump has been supportive and incredibly defensive of MBS during this “crisis”, the truth is that the US only has itself to blame. It was not all too long ago that Trump announced that he had told Saudi King Salman that his kingdom would not last two weeks without US support.

Saudi Arabia is learning for themselves quite quickly that, ultimately, it may pay not to have all its eggs in one geopolitical superpower basket.

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in Moscow since King Salman made a historic visit to Moscow in October 2017. While Trump has openly bragged about his record-breaking arms deals with the Saudis, the blunt truth is that the $110 billion arms agreements were reportedly only ever letters of interest or intent, but not actual contracts. As such, the US-Saudi arms deal is still yet to be locked in, all the while Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for its S-400 air defence system. This is, as the Washington Post notes, despite repeated US requests to Saudi Arabia for it disavow its interest in Russia’s arms.

The economic threat that an “independent” Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership poses to Washington runs deeper than meets the eye and may indeed have a domino effect. According to CNN, Russia and Saudi Arabia “are engaged in an intense battle over who will be the top supplier to China, a major energy importer with an insatiable appetite for crude.”

The unveiling of China’s petro-yuan poses a major headache for Washington and its control over Saudi Arabia as well.According to Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High-Frequency Economics, China will “compel”Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Chinese yuan instead of US dollars. One must bear in mind that China has now surpassed the US as the “biggest oil importer on the planet,” these direct attacks on the US dollar will have huge implications for its current world reserve status.

If Saudi Arabia jumps on board China’s petro-yuan, the rest of OPEC will eventually follow, and the US might be left with no choice but to declare all of these countries in need of some vital freedom and democracy.

Therefore, ousting MBS and replacing him with a Crown Prince who doesn’t stray too far from the tree that is US imperialism may put a dent in pending relationships with Saudi Arabia and Washington’s adversaries, Russia and China.

Once we get over the certainty that the US media and the CIA are not against MBS for his long-list of human rights abuses, the question then becomes: why – why now, and in this manner, have they decided to put the spotlight on MBS and expose him exactly for what he is.

Clearly, the driving force behind this media outrage is a bit more complex than first meets the eye.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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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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