Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Has Lukashenka Ordered Makei to Seek Autocephaly for Belarusian Orthodox?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 5 – The Belarusian Trykatazh telegram channel reported yesterday that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has directed his foreign minister, Vladimir Makei, to begin negotiations with the Ecumenical Patriarch in order to obtain autocephaly for Orthodox Christians in Belarus.  

            That story was then picked up by Kyiv’s Delovaya stolitsa, which subsequently took it down from its Internet version (dsnews.ua/world/lukashenko-zapustil-peregovory-o-begstve-tserkvi-belarusi-04022019172400). But as all things Internet, a copy of the article is available on another site (urb-a.livejournal.com/16479172.html).

            Both this pattern and the content of the original telegram channel report strongly suggest that this is Russian disinformation. After all, instead of straight reporting about where and when Lukashenka gave the order, Trykatazh makes reference to the notion that “American partners have more then once already pushed” for this.

                Indeed, the telegram channel said, “American diplomats in fact have made movement of Belarusian Orthodoxy toward Constantinople a condition for further progress of relations between Belarus and the IMF.” Supposedly Belarus consul general in Istanbul Aleksey Shved will meet with representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch next week.

            At the same time, as Trykatazh does accurately note, last November, Archbishop Iov of the Ecumenical Patriarchate said that Constantinople was prepared to offer to Belarus the same status it has given the Ukrainian Church. (For a discussion of that offer, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/moscow-could-be-stripped-of-autocephaly.html.)

            And it is also true that many Russians fear that the Orthodox in Belarus will achieve autocephaly, that the West is orchestrating this, but that there are as well many in Belarus who now back the idea (iarex.ru/news/63776.html). Consequently, even if this Trykatazh report is “fake news,” it is part of a more complicated game about that possibility.

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