RADA Member Victor Yelenskyj on the Latest Russian Mistake

Victor Yelenskyj was the head of the Ukrainian delegation at that fateful Interparliamentary Ortho­dox Assembly in Tbilisi that sparked the protests still ongoing to this day. GEORGIA TODAY asked the Kiev-bound Yelenskyj for his insight and perspective on what actually happened when the Orthodox Communist debonair Gavrilov put his Kremlin-approved behind where it didn’t belong.

“I had a very lengthy document prepared on Inter-Orthodox Solidarity, but unfortunately, or fortunately, we never got that far,” Yelenskyj tells us. “My Georgian colleagues were justifiably displeased at seeing the head of Russian delegation and if what I was told is true – that he participated in the war in Abkhazia, then I fully understand their position. As we exited the hotel, I saw a large crowd of people expressing their outrage at this and I too expressed my solidarity, as I have no doubts as to who the aggressor is in the Russia-Georgia conflict. The Russian media obviously reported that I was there to incite people to protest the Russian presence, but I don’t think Georgian society needs my help objecting to what they see as offensive and hypocritical. Later on, for safety reasons, I was taken to the Ukrainian Embassy.”

He tells us there is, in his opinion, no need for “Russian domination or a Kremlin agenda” at the Assembly. “Georgians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Serbians: there are plenty of Orthodox communities that do not need this agenda imposed on them. It’s only aim is for Russian politicians to masquerade as benevolent Christians, which they obviously are not,” he says.

Yet that doesn’t stop the more anti-Western minded societies in both our countries from claiming that despite all the Kremlin machinations, Russians are “brothers in the same faith”.

Russia is country that has invaded at least three Orthodox countries: Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. What kind of an orthodox solidarity are we talking about here? Which biblical teachings tell you to invade, kill and bomb people you consider “your brothers”? It’s a hypocrisy the Kremlin is very fond of. And it’s a wide known fact that the Moscow Patriarchate is just another weapon in the Kremlin arsenal. What kind of Church gives its blessing to nuclear weapons? Look at the Ukrainian Church’s autocephaly: Putin convened the Security Council to combat it; Russian hackers tried to hack the website of the Patriarchate in Constantinople. These don’t seem to me as acts of brothers in the same faith, but rather those of an enemy who uses religion as a weapon. I think every sensible person in Georgia and Ukraine realizes that.

Regarding the Ukrainian autocephaly, the very same anti-Western narrative followers point the finger at Ukraine and say “look, they’ve got their Tomos and now they are at each other’s throats.” How much truth is in that?

There is no split and no we are not at each other’s throats. What is happening is that a high-ranking figure inside the Church has a different opinion on certain issues. That is acceptable. There is a high-ranking archbishop in the Moscow Patriarchate that put Patriarch Kiril to anathema and said he will burn in hell, but do you hear about that in Russian media? No, because it’s not in the Kremlin’s interest. The truth is, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is developing and expanding steadily, which is obviously something The Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate have come to detest. The process of recognition of our autocephaly is also showing considerable momentum, which again is a thorn in the Kremlin’s side.

The Georgian Orthodox Church is in no hurry to follow suit. What’s the Ukrainian perspective on that?

That’s one head of a two-pronged assault that the Kremlin is waging against the UOC. On one front, they’re trying to undermine the authority of the Constantinople Patriarchate; on the other they are resorting to pressure and outright blackmail on fellow Orthodox churches just to try and obstruct the process of recognition. It’s a badly kept secret that they are threatening recognition of the independence of churches in separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia if the Georgian Church recognizes our autocephaly. But in the end, the Georgian Church will support us, because Georgia and Georgians know the true face of Russia and the Russian Church.

The article was prepared as part of the fellowship funded by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) within the Project “Giving Voice, Driving Change - from the Borderland to the Steppes.” The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.



By Vazha Tavberidze

24 June 2019 18:03