ICC NOTE: Ukraine boasts three separate patriarchate’s of the Orthodox church with one directly connected to Moscow and the others Ukrainian in origin. Between the churches, bad blood has ensued since the collapse of the Soviet Union as the Eastern Orthodox Church only recognizes one of the three. Two separate church processions will converge in Kyiv on July 27 prompting some leaders to fear a potential escalation of violence. The Moscow affiliated Orthodox Church has been considered to be an arm of Vladimir Putin, used as soft power to further his push in the Ukraine. With the historical animosity towards the Kyiv and Moscow Churches, the risk of violence could lead Moscow to use the incident as a reason for further intervention to protect ethnic speaking Russians.
7/25/2016 Kyiv, Ukraine (Radio Free Europe) – Two religious processions converging on Kyiv have Ukrainian authorities warning that provocations could spark violence in the capital.
The All-Ukrainian Procession of the Cross for Peace, Love and Prayer for Ukraine includes thousands of believers from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate — an affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church and a rival of a major Kyiv-based church.
Marching in two groups — one from the west of the country and another from the east — they plan to converge on Kyiv’s Volodymyrska Hill and then at the Kyiv-Pechersk Monastery on July 27, the eve of the celebration of the 10th-century Baptism of Kievan Rus.
Moscow Patriarchate leaders say they will pray for peace and prosperity in Ukraine. The church’s Bishop Clement told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that there will be no provocations, at least from their side.
Ukrainian authorities say they suspect the marches are merely a front for a Moscow-orchestrated plot to stir unrest and prove what Russia has claimed since Euromaidan protests drove a Moscow-aligned president from power in 2014: that the rights of Russians, Russian speakers, and members of the Moscow-based church’s flock are at risk here.
Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy dismisses those Russian claims and accuses Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, of planning to use the marches to destabilize Ukraine by fomenting unrest in the streets of Kyiv and creating “an artificial political crisis.”
“Together with peaceful believers, [the FSB] are bringing provocateurs with prohibited symbols and symbols of the aggressor country…including athletic youths who have a history of participating in church-related attacks,” Parubiy alleged in a recent telecast. He said authorities had gathered intelligence that proved his concerns legitimate, but he did not present evidence of his claims.