Monday, February 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Moscow Not Nationalists Responsible for Conflict in Ukraine, Kyiv Patriarchate Official Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – Those who try to “simplify” the situation in Ukraine and argue that “either the Greek Catholics or the Galicians or the nationalists” are the foundation of the Maidan are wrong, according to Archbishop Evstratii, the secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchte.

            The key role in the Maidan movement, the archbishop told the website, is being played by the residents of Central Ukraine near Kyiv, “the spiritual and historic heart” of the country which “supports Ukraine’s European choice, its sovereignty, independence and democratic future (

            But it is not just Central Ukraine that supports a European choice for the country, Evstratii continues, Ukrainians across the country do, adding that he does not “feel and does not see” that in any region of the country there is support for “the creating of some separate state formation and its separation from another part of Ukraine,” as some have suggested.

            Such ideas and indeed the entire crisis in Ukraine, the Kyiv Patriarchate official says, have been imposed on the country “from the outside.”  Six months ago, a consensus had emerged in Ukrainian society that “Ukraine must enter into an association with the European Union.” The government, the opposition, and “society as a whole shared this idea.”

             Unfortunately, the Russian government did everything it could to ensure that “this choice would not be realized,” Evstratii says. Indeed, President Viktor Yanukovich said in Vilnius that “he was forced” to delay signing or “otherwise Ukraine would be threatened with an economic catastrophe” as a result of various Russian measures.

            “The roots of [the current conflict] are not in Ukraine,” the archbishop argues. Whenever anyone talks about “civil war, the disintegration of Ukraine or such like all this flows like a dirty stream from foreign media which is quite widely broadcast to Ukraine from our northern border.” But in Ukraine, he says, “with rare exceptions,” there are none who share those views.

            As a whole, he says, there is “neither the desire nor the inclination that a civil war should break out in Ukraine, that there be civil conflict or the struggle between various parts of Ukraine which could lead to the dividing up of the state.”

            In the current situation, the role of the church is especially important.  The level of religiosity in Ukrainian society is high, the archbishop says, and consequently, “the role of religious organizations in the events which are taking place in the country is important,” although it does not take the conspiratorial role some have suggested.

            The church seeks a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and it has acted accordingly, Evstratii continues.  “The presence of the priests and monks on Hrushevsky Street of course helped at a specific moment to lower the temperature of the dispute.”  But it has done more than that, he says.

            In his interview, the Ukrainian archbishop said that he believes that the church has had a role in promoting talks between the government and the demonstrators, encouraging both to resolve their differences rather than allow outside forces to continue to divide Ukrainians and undermine the country.

            He said that he “is certain and hoping for God’s helpthat all those evil people who want discord in Ukraine will suffer defeat and that Ukraine will come out of this crisis with benefits for itself, having reaffirmed its independence and its sovereignty.”

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