Russia plans to aggressively exploit "political Orthodoxy" factor in Ukraine – analyst
Russia is mulling a wider use of "political Orthodoxy" in Ukraine as the FSB security service and SVR foreign intelligence have ultimately given up on the idea that the process of the Ukraine Orthodox church getting from Constantinople a so-called "tomos on autocephaly," effectively meaning religious independence from any Russian influence, could be stopped by a range of hybrid methods (bribery, blackmail, or backstage arrangements).
According to Dmytro Tymchuk, coordinator of Ukraine-based Information Resistance OSINT community, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill (Gundyaev) is also well aware that the process is unstoppable. Therefore, he expresses a categorical unwillingness to further speak on the issue with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Under the current circumstances, Kirill considers his earlier announced visit to Constantinople humiliating, now planning to send Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the ROC Department for External Church Relations. At the same time, Hilarion tries to convince Kirill that the latter actually needs to pay such visit, not to further destroy the already affected image of the Russian Orthodox Church.
At this point, it is clear that Vladimir Putin and his entourage are gravely disappointed over the latest developments, realizing that they are losing one of the most important levers on Ukraine. The Kremlin's biggest irritant is the fact that the apparent failure to prevent independence of Ukraine church jeopardizes further efforts to remove the current Ukrainian leadership during the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019 and bring to power in Kyiv other political forces, loyal to Moscow.
Therefore, Russian special services seem in their "impotent rage" seem to have decided to opt for the "last resort" measures from their toolkit, which is the threat of force.
Reports came this week that the Russian-controlled clergy of Kamianets-Podilsk set up a religious procession heading to the Pochaiv Lavra, while its participants, who looked more like thugs than local believers, were spotted sporting T-shirts with an appeal to "prepare for war."
As we remember, it is the infamous "religious war" that is one of the most prominent "boogeyman stories" used by Ukrainian MP Vadym Novinsky, a vivid supporter of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, as well as various pro-Kremlin "experts," to intimidate Ukrainian public and international community when they forecast what will happen once independence is granted to the Ukraine church.
Besides, the "pilgrims" were carrying an "Orthodox flag of the DPR," which pro-Russian terrorists "consecrated" in Donetsk in 2014 and which "miners and tractor drivers" were led by in battles against the "Kyiv junta."
The purpose of this showoff is to warn of the Kremlin's readiness to shed blood on religious grounds, as well as shape up information background for further provocations.
In addition, according to the IR community, Russia-controlled clergy from Odesa received yet another order from the secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church.
That’s about the need to exploit more widely the factor of "political Orthodoxy" to further destabilize the region and create popular tensions on religious grounds. At the same time, attention is focused on the fact that these efforts should be pro-active, namely, through organizing and holding protest actions and disobedience rallies involving parishioners of the Russia-controlled churches.
At the same time, according to the IR data, here has been a significant decrease in the number of priests supporting any radicalization in Odesa region, and , on the contrary, an increasing number of supporters of the idea of autocephaly of the Ukrainian local Orthodox Church.