Carnegie Center: Putin and Russian Patriarch at odds over Ukraine

Disagreements have emerged between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kirill of Moscow, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), following the start of the conflict  in eastern Ukraine.
This was noted by Andrey Pertsev, researcher from the Carnegie Moscow Center, as reported by Voice of America.

“It has long been known that the president and the patriarch’s relations became strained after the start of the Ukrainian crisis and the conflict in the Donbas,” the researcher observes.

According to Pertsev, the support of the Church, which could criticize the government in Ukraine, would be a significant propaganda instrument for Putin, and would have to support the Russian government.

“For the patriarch and the ROC, good relations with the Ukrainian authorities have been important – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) operates in Ukrainian territory,” the researcher points out.
Putin would like to bring even more criticism against Ukraine from the ROC. Speaking at the Council of Bishops in December, Putin pointed out the Church’s role as the guardian of the “stability and unity” of the state.
However, Pertsev believes that Patriarch Kirill is not prepared to fulfill this role. In response to Putin’s speech, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church criticized the state’s influence on the Church.

“Due to the government’s interference, the church has had no direct dialogue with the public,” Kirill emphasized, citing the situation in pre-revolution Russia as an example.

In Russia there are rumors circulating that the Kremlin wants to replace the stubborn patriarch with someone who holds more state-centric views. For example, Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), who is believed by many to be Putin’s confessor,” the researcher notes, but expresses doubt as to the correctness of the rumors.

The analyst expects there to be further escalation of the conflict between the Russian President and the ROC.

“The president’s keynote speech before the bishops the day before the presidential campaign will only exacerbate the conflict… The president’s speech is evidence that the Kremlin sees the situation in the public in general and in the ROC in particular in a distorted light,” the article comments.

At the session of the Council of Bishops, Metropolitan Onufriy of Kyiv and all Ukraine asked for a special status to be given to the UOC MP in the charter of the ROC. The metropolitan’s suggestion was approved unanimously. The Council of Bishops in Moscow prescribed in the charter that the administrative center of the UOC MP is located in Kyiv. In actual fact, the ROC has restricted the independence of the UOC MP.

  Putin, Patriarch Kirill, Russia