Russia-backed ‘Cossack’ fighters take oath in Moscow Patriarchate church to fight against the Ukrainian ‘enemy’
Around 40 ‘Cossack’ fighters from the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ [‘LPR’] have attended a ceremony in an Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, claiming that it gives them “the right with rifle in hand to defend the republic”. The event on 27 January is not the first time that Moscow Patriarchate churches are seen taking a clear and highly contentious position in the Kremlin-backed conflict in Donbas.
The fact that these ‘Don Cossacks’ who came to Donbas from Russia to take part in the fighting and any local supporters should come up with such an oath is unsurprising.
The direct involvement of the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate [UOP MP] can also not be called surprising, but it is disturbing.
The official position from UOP MP from the beginning was that it took no position on the conflict in Donbas. This was very often not the impression on the ground, with members of the Church seen blessing prominent militants such as former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin and ‘LPR leader’ Igor Plotnitsky. Girkin’s main aide Ihor Druz
Professor Oleksandr Sahan, a specialist on the Orthodox Church in the world and relations between the state and different faiths,
In a 2015 study entitled ‘
The authors pointed out that “open sources and witness testimony indicate that these armed groups also have local support from the clergy of UOC-MP and the Russian Orthodox Church”. Examples are provided of some Moscow Patriarchate priests who “have, to varying degrees, supported these illegal paramilitary groups in their campaign against representatives of Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic Churches, and Orthodox believers who do not recognize the Moscow Patriarchate.”
At least two of the ‘Cyborgs’ defending Donetsk Airport who were taken prisoner by Russian or pro-Russian fighters have said that their tormenters included a man wearing the clothes of an Orthodox priest, who used his cross as a means of torture.
Oleksandr Mashonkin spent 197 days imprisoned by fighters from the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [DNR] before being freed on Aug 6, 2015. During that period he was subjected to all kinds of torture, including a hot iron on his hands. He
Calls for all sides to lay down weapons, etc. cannot conceal the Moscow Patriarchate’s failure to react when crimes are being committed supposedly in its name.
While conflicts have arisen between differing armed groups, especially in ‘LPR’, the authors note that adherence to the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarch and political ideas around the so-called ‘Russian world’ are largely shared by all pro-Russian militants.
This concept of a supposed ‘Russian World’ – encompassing Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, as well as Russia itself – has been repeatedly endorsed by Putin, and by Patriarch Kirill. The latter
Some of the Cossack ‘Russian world crusaders’ have also taken part in armed conflicts in the post-Soviet areas of Transnistria, Abkhazia and Serbia.