By Efi Efthimiou
Those who attended Russian President Putin’s speech last Friday from St. George’s Hall to the Kremlin about the “signing of the annexation treaties” of the Ukrainian regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Cherson, would have noticed that members of the Russian Church were among those present.
It is no longer surprising, nor is it new, that the leadership of the Russian Church since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has taken a clear position in favor of the choices and tactics of the Kremlin leadership.
The presence of clergy – Ukrainian citizens – of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) which is the vehicle of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine and its head is Metropolitan Onufriy, was a surprise, as well as caused the outrage of the Ukrainians, during the announcement of the illegal annexation of the four Ukrainian regions.
Watching the video of the announcement of the Russian president, one finds that among the audience in the Kremlin were Metropolitan Panteleimon of Lugansk and Alchevsk, Archimandrite Ioannis (Prokopenko), abbot of the Holy Monastery of Melitopolis, and Archimandrite Alexei (Fedorov), abbot of the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary in Cherson.
According to Ukrainian media, Metropolitan Panteleimon of Lugansk (since June 2019), who comes from Vinitsa, had helped Russian forces justify their invasion of Ukraine.
Archimandrite Ioannis, according to the Ukrainian media, had campaigned for “the earliest possible referendum on the accession to Russia” of the occupied areas.
Also, Archimandrite Alexei was in first place in the hall of St.George in the Kremlin, next to Ramzan Kadirov and the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobianin.
This has alarmed the Ukrainian government, with President Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak, stating in an interview with a Ukrainian website that all Ukrainian citizens who went to the so-called Kremlin ceremony are collaborators of the enemy who must be prosecuted and imprisoned.
“This also applies to the representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Patriarchate of Moscow,” he said to NV.
As President Zelensky’s adviser said, it is necessary to demarcate everything related to Russia in Ukraine. “Kremlin propagandists should not be in Ukraine, whether they are politicians, representatives of religion or the media.”
He also noted that the issue is very important and that the parliament should prepare a well-documented draft law that clearly records what will happen to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
“Everything needs to be sorted out clearly. There should be a clear bill that says how the religious structure will be shaped in our country after the war,” he said.