The importance of comedian Volodymyr Zelensky’s victory in the second round of Ukraine’s presidential election is not that he won but that incumbent Petro Poroshenko lost – badly. The nervousness of Poroshenko’s western patrons (and his client, in the case of US Special Representative Kurt Volker) at losing their faithful factotum is evident. For example, the Atlantic Council immediately called for “technical assistance to help [Zelensky] shape the transition, connect him with Western experts, and begin a dialogue.” Translation: Let’s make sure this new chief keeps the Indians on the reservation.
In the same vein, Poroshenko and his parliamentary cronies moved fast to try to ensure that Zelensky’s freedom to govern would be restricted. Immediately following the vote, legislation was advanced in the Verkhovna Rada to transfer powers from the president to the Rada (and hence to the prime minister), to limit the president’s power to appoint cabinet ministers, to lock in exclusive official use of the Ukrainian language, and to impair Zelensky’s ability to call early elections (his new Servant of the People party currently holds no seats). Predictably no western government or “democracy” watchdog group has cried foul over these blatant attempts to clip the wings of the voters’ overwhelming favorite. Nothing to see here folks – now let’s get back to regime change to install “democracy” in Venezuela …
Even without obstructionism from the old guard it’s doubtful Zelensky can achieve much. During the campaign, parallels were drawn to fellow “outsider” Donald Trump and his improbable 2016 win. Whatever Trump’s intentions to #DrainTheSwamp and institute an #AmericaFirst policy, they have come to naught in the face of a united, bipartisan establishment. If anything the Kiev “Swamp” facing Zelensky is worse than the one that bested Trump in Washington – in fact, it’s fair to say that the former is to a great extent just a function of the latter. Whatever his intentions and personal qualities, which remain in doubt, Zelensky is being set up to be the latest failed president of a failing state.
However, one area in which we can expect some improvement is the crisis in the Orthodox Church, which last year was plunged into an ugly schism over Ukraine. As noted earlier, while many people, especially some of a secular mind who scorn mere “religion,” tend to underestimate the importance of spiritual matters in relation to politics and society, there are some parts of the world where they are taken very seriously. Paradoxically, this is especially true in parts of eastern and central Europe that until recently were under the sway of militant atheists. Indeed, that legacy – and the eventual failure of communism – seems to be a factor in Christianity’s revival as a potent societal force in much of that region, in most cases allied with national identity, in sad contrast to progressively secularizing (and morally self-destructing) western Europe and North America.
Without repeating all the details here, Poroshenko had sought to create his very own “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” as a prop for his reelection bid with the enthusiastic (and reportedly monetary) involvement of the US State Department and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople, along with cheerleading from the global LGBT lobby (itself weaponized against Christianity by western governments and the Soros network). Under Poroshenko’s and Patriarch Bartholomew’s patronage, the “Robber Council” of Kiev on December 15, 2018, purported to transform a hodgepodge of schismatics into a new “autocephalous” Ukrainian church, though in fact the new illegitimate body would be totally subject to Constantinople, with even less independence than that enjoyed by the existing, canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, of which the UOC is an autonomous part, responded by breaking communion with Constantinople.
While Zelensky has met pro forma with the supposed primate of the phony church – as well as with the first hierarch of the canonical Church, Metropolitan Onufry – for obvious reasons he’s unlikely to involve himselftoo deeply insustaining his predecessor’s pet project. That project now seems to be failing quicker than anyone had dared hope. Not a single autocephalous Orthodox Church has responded positively to Constantinople’s call to recognize the new entity.
Perhaps most significantly, recently the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem gathered on Cyprus with the Archbishop of that country’s Church, ostensibly to discuss problems of Christians in the Middle East. Thankfully, they seem to have resolved a schism between Antioch and Jerusalem unrelated to the Ukraine imbroglio, but by all indications Ukraine was the real purpose of the meeting – with Constantinople pointedly absent. To the extent that the rift between Moscow and Constantinople threatened to break down globally along ethnic lines with “Greeks” on the one hand and Russians or “Slavs” generally on the other, the conclave of the culturally Greek Churches seems to have averted that danger. The Church of Albania, also largely Greek, has also strongly criticized Constantinople.
Hopefully, we will soon see floated an initiative to give Patriarch Bartholomew a face-saving way to back down from his misstep in Ukraine. Sadly, he as yet shows no sign of doing so, despite the Ukrainian schismatics’ he has taken under his wing having given him more than ample grounds to disavow them.
Among the strongest bulwarks against the schismatic schemes of Kiev, Constantinople, Washington, and the Soros/LGBT network has been the Serbian Orthodox Church, based on a principled rejection of Constantinople’s anti-traditional, neo-papal claims. The vehemence of the Serbian Church’s stand on Ukraine also reflects particular internal threats Serbia faces from politically motivated schismatic groups that could provide tempting targets for meddling by Patriarch Bartholomew and his western backers. These include the “Macedonian Orthodox Church,” which claims to be independent of the Serbian Church but is recognized by no other Church (and where state authorities in the NATO puppet and newly renamed “Republic of North Macedonia” harass the canonical Autonomous Archbishopric of Ohrid), as well as attempts to create a separate “Montenegrin Orthodox Church.” In this context, never far from anyone’s consciousness is the formation of an ersatz “Croatian Orthodox Church” in 1942 under the World War II-era regime of Ustaša dictator Ante Pavelić, as a cover for the genocide of Orthodox Serbs in the so-called “Independent State of Croatia.”
Thus, the approaching failure of Poroshenko’s, the State Department’s, and Patriarch Bartholomew’s project in Ukraine is a victory not only for the Orthodox Church as a whole but for the Serbian Church in particular. The Archpastors and faithful of that Church deserve praise for their bold witness. That said, it is unfortunate to note that at the same time the same hierarchs (Orthodoxy does not regard any bishop or synod of bishops as infallible) have failed to correct a grave injustice within their own Church – one evidently prompted from Washington, the very same point of origin as the Ukrainian crisis.
I refer to the 2010 removal without an ecclesiastical trial of His Grace, Bishop Artemije from his Eparchy of Raška and Prizren, which includes the province of Kosovo and Metohija, and his later (purported) reduction to the status of a simple monastic. The ostensible reasons for the action taken against Vladika Artemije are allegations against him and Fr. Simeon (Vilovski) concerning improper use of funds earmarked for repairs to places of worship (to put Serbian churches and monasteries in good order for further vandalism and destruction from NATO-empowered Albanian Muslim militants) for lobbying in Washington, starting in 2006, on behalf of his flock and against western plans to separate Kosovo from Serbia. As the lead lobbyist for that effort, I can personally attest to the emptiness of these accusations, on which I have written in detail (for example, available here in English and in Serbian). The charges against him are unfounded, which is why, in addition to suffering at the hands of the Holy Synod in Belgrade, Vladika Artemije has never been brought to trial by state authorities despite an ongoing campaign of defamation and legal harassment that continues to this day.
Why has he been treated this way? First, because he has been openly defiant of the bogus charges labeled against him. Unwilling to “repent” for allegations of wrongdoing he has not committed, he insists that he is the true Bishop of the Raško-Prizrenska Eparchy in Exile – leading to his being falsely being accused of schism. Second, he is an outspoken opponent of ecumenism, which offends many in all Orthodox jurisdictions, which sadly are infected with this spiritual malady to a greater or lesser degree.
But the chief reason is flatly political. Vladika Artemije was punished for his forthright opposition to US and NATO policy in Kosovo and his spearheading the lobbying effort to oppose creation of that terrorist-mafia pseudo-state (and hotbed of Islamic jihad) under NATO protection. In addition, he sued the NATO powers in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and in 2009 sought to bar a visit by then-US Vice President and current 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden (a belligerent proponent of war against Serbs in Bosnia and Kosovo and of detaching Kosovo from Serbia, not to mention a Ukraine profiteer via his son Hunter Biden) from visiting Visoki Dečani monastery – a decision overturned by the Serbian Church at the behest of the Serbian government, then headed by western quisling Boris Tadić.