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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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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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Massacre in Crimea kills dozens, many in critical condition

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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Russian Orthodox Church officially breaks ties with Constantinople

Biggest separation in almost 1,000 years as world’s largest Orthodox Church cuts communion with Constantinople over legitimizing schismatics.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The schism between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate became official today, October 15, 2018, as the Russian Holy Synod reviewed the recent granting of communion to two schismatic groups in Ukraine, pursuant to Constantinople’s intent to grant autocephaly (full self-rule, or independence) to the agglomeration of these groups.

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RT reported that the Synod ruled that any further clerical relations with Constantinople are impossible, given the current conditions. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev told journalists today about the breach in relations:

“A decision about the full break of relations with the Constantinople Patriarchate has been taken at a Synod meeting” that is currently been held in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, Hilarion said, as cited by TASS.

The move comes days after the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate decided to eventually grant the so-called autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thus making the clerical organization, which earlier enjoyed a broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, fully independent.

The Moscow Patriarchate also said that it would not abide by any decisions taken by Constantinople and related to the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “All these decisions are unlawful and canonically void,” Hilarion said, adding that “the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognize these decisions and will not follow them.”

At the same time, the Russian Church expressed its hope that “a common sense will prevail” and Constantinople will change its decision. However, it still accused the Ecumenical Patriarch of initiating the “schism.”

The marks the most significant split in the Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054, in which Rome excommunicated Constantinople, a breach between the Roman Catholics and Orthodox which has persisted ever since then, becoming hardened and embittered after the Roman Catholic armies sacked Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

Many other local Orthodox Churches expressed support for the Moscow Patriarchate’s position prior to today’s announcement, but the break in relations between these two churches does not have any known affect on local churches who hold communion with both Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate at this time.

The website Orthochristian.com ran the entire statement of the Holy Synod regarding this situation. We offer a brief summary of statements here, taken from that source and patriarcha.ru, adding emphasis.

With deepest pain, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church received the message of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published on October 11, 2018 about the decisions adopted by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: on the confirmation of the intention to “grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church”; on the opening of the “stavropegion” of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Kiev; on the “restoration in the hierarchal or priestly rank” of the leaders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers and the “return of their faithful to Church communion”; and on the “cancellation of the action” of the conciliar charter of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1686 concerning the transfer of the Kiev Metropolia to the Moscow Patriarchate

The Synod of the Church of Constantinople made these decisions unilaterally, ignoring the calls of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the entirety of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the fraternal Local Orthodox Churches, and their primates and bishops for pan-Orthodox discussion of the issue.

Entering into communion with those who have departed into schism, let alone those who have been excommunicated from the Church, is tantamount to departing into schism and is severely condemned by the canons of the holy Church: “If any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any of the clergy shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated, as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church” (Canon 2 of the Council of Antioch; Canon 10, 11 of the Holy Apostles).

The decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the “restoration” of the canonical status and the reception into communion of the former Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko, excommunicated from the Church, ignores a number of successive decisions of the Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church, the legitimacy of which are beyond doubt.

By the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kharkov of May 27, 1992, Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) was removed from the Kiev Cathedra and was banned from the clergy for not fulfilling the oath made by him before the cross and the Gospel at the previous Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

By its ruling of June 11,1992, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, confirmed the decision of the Kharkov Council and expelled Philaret Denisenko from his rank, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood on the following charges: “Cruel and arrogant attitude to the subordinate clergy, dictatorialness, and intimidation (Tit. 1:7-8; Canon 27 of the Holy Apostles); introducing temptation among the faithful by his behavior and personal life (Matthew 18:7; Canon 3 of the First Ecumenical Council, Canon 5 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council); oath-breaking (Canon 25 of the Holy Apostles); public slander and blasphemy against the Bishops’ Council (Canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council); the celebration of clerical functions, including ordinations, in a state of suspension (Canon 28 of the Holy Apostles); the perpetration of a schism in the Church (Canon 15 of the First-Second Council).” All ordinations performed by Philaret in a suspended state since May 27, 1992, and the punishments imposed by him, were declared invalid.

Despite repeated calls for repentance, after the deprivation of his hierarchal rank Philaret Denisenko continued his schismatic activity, including within the bounds of other Local Churches. By the ruling of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 1997, he was given over to anathema.

The aforesaid decisions were recognized by all the Local Orthodox Churches, including the Church of Constantinople.

… Now, after more than two decades, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has changed its position for political reasons.

… St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, in his Pedalion, which is an authoritative source of ecclesiastical-canonical law of the Church of Constantinople, interprets Canon 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, rejecting the false opinion on the right of Constantinople to consider appeals from other Churches: “The Primate of Constantinople does not have the right to act in the dioceses and provinces of other Patriarchs, and this rule did not give him the right to take appeals on any matter in the Ecumenical Church… “ Listing a whole range of arguments in favor of this interpretation, referring to the practice of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, St. Nikodemos concludes: “At present … the Primate of Constantinople is the first, the only, and the last judge over the metropolitans subordinate to him—but not over those who are subject to the rest of the Patriarchs. For, as we said, the last and universal judge of all the Patriarchs is the Ecumenical Council and no one else.” It follows from the above that the Synod of the Church of Constantinople does not have canonical rights to withdraw judicial decisions rendered by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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