By Kostas Onisenko
A small-scale incident took place in Nizhny, Ukraine, on June 24, between supporters of the Russian Church in Ukraine, Ukrainians, and members of patriotic organizations and war veterans in Donbas.
On that day, priests and supporters of the Moscow Patriarchate in Nizhyn, a city about 100 miles (100 km) from Kyiv and administratively and ecclesiastically located in Chernihiv held a small religious procession (what Eastern Europeans call “cross-course”).
On the route that they chose to pass is a monument to the victims of the Russo-Ukrainian war and the dead of the Maidan. War veterans and members of patriotic organizations had gathered there. By the time the two groups met, tensions and minor incidents ensued.
Patriotic organizations complained that people who took part in the “cross-course”, and in particular the “guards”, hit the mother of one of the fallen Ukrainian soldiers, which provoked their indignant reaction.
For their part, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate complain that protesters from the pro-Ukrainian wing were standing in the middle of the street, blocking their passage and attacking them.
Speaking to OrthodoxTimes, Archbishop Zoria of Chernihiv and Nizhyn of the Ukrainian Church clarified from the outset that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has no direct or indirect involvement in the incident.
After the media coverage of the tension, the Archbishop went to Nizhyn to find out what had happened and to assess the situation.
“The initial decision of the Moscow Patriarchate contained the element of provocation as they decided to go through that point, while they had various alternatives, knowing that there is a serious risk of creating tension.
At the same time, people from the procession had provocative behavior and one of the guards of the march hit the mother of a soldier who had been killed in the front”, says the Archbishop.
It is worth noting that in Ukraine, to a large extent, the Moscow Patriarchate is associated with the perception of citizens of Russia and with the aggressive actions of the neighboring country against Ukraine over the past eight years.
To this, Archbishop Yevstratiy adds other elements that reinforce this view: “We must not forget that especially in Nizhyn, a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate was ordained, who not only played an active role in the illegal occupation of Crimea but was also awarded a medal by Russia. So it seems that for some reason, the Moscow Patriarchate has chosen Nizhyn for such actions.
It is worth noting that the Metropolitan of the Russian Church in Ukraine Kliment (Nizhyn and Prilutsky) is a public figure and has contacts with various powerful figures of the Russian Church, such as the businessman Vadym Novynskyi.
Archbishop Yevstratiy considers it possible that the incident is part of a major operation to destabilize the country in view of the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, which is scheduled for the end of August.
“We remember the Pope’s visit to Ukraine, then the Russian Church in Ukraine had reacted with protests and marches, however, that cost her communication. That is why today we see that they have drawn their conclusions and no longer come out openly but are covered by various pseudo-civil society organizations”.
These organizations, says the Archbishop, are expected to be used in the communication war against the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine.
What does the Moscow Patriarchate say?
Following the incident, the Moscow Patriarchate launched a communication attack accusing the pro-Ukrainians of “suppressing their religious freedoms.”
At the same time, in a video distributed by the propaganda means of the Russian Church, it seems that this communication attack is organized and coordinated.
The “friends” of the Moscow Patriarchate are even launching indirect threats to destabilize the situation in Ukraine on July 27, the day for which the great cross-procession for the celebrations of the Christianization of Kievan Rus has taken place.
Analysts believe that the Nizhyn incident is a “warm-up” of the subversive actions prepared by the Russian Church in Ukraine, which has shown in every way that it will do everything in its power to prevent this visit or – if it can not prevent – to create such a negative climate in the media in order to overshadow this very important incident.