Laws on reintegration of Donbas: a wake-up call for UOC-MP

18.10.2017, 08:08
At one time, Metropolitan Onufriy, the Primate of the UOC-MP, when asked about Russia's aggression in the Crimea, answered as he probably considered the top of moderation: “I'm not a politician, I cannot answer this question.”


In October this year, the Parliament adopted two bills on the issue of reintegration of Donbas. The draft Law on peculiarities of state policy to ensure state sovereignty of Ukraine over temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (registration No. 7163 dated 04.10.2017, hereinafter referred to as “Reintegration Law”) has been recently adopted at the first reading. According to the latest data, changes will be made thereto. But the draft law on creating the necessary conditions for peaceful settlement of the situation in certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts (registration number 7164 dated 04.10.2017) has already received the details of the Law (No. 2167-VIII dated 06.10.2017) and is currently awaiting publication.


These documents close the legislative gap related to the status of the uncontrolled territories of Donbas. If Law No. 2167-VIII (which has already been signed by the President) simply terminates the “special status” of Donbas for a one-year term, the Reintegration Law clearly declares the Russian Federation a party to the conflict.



In particular, the preamble of the future law states that Russia:



Has initiated, organized and supported terrorist activity in Ukraine;



  • wages armed aggression against Ukraine and the temporary occupation of parts of its territory;
  • uses its own regular units and subdivisions of the armed forces and other military formations, their subordinated and controlled Russian advisers and instructors;
  • Uses the planted, organized, managed, controlled and supported, including financially supported armed gangs and groups, irregular forces and mercenaries;
  • Has established its own occupation administration.


Accordingly, the territory of Donbas, where “the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the occupation administration of the Russian Federation have established and are exercising occupation power and general control of the Russian Federation”, is recognized by the draft law as the temporarily occupied territories (Article 1). And, therefore, according to Article 4 of the draft law, one of the tasks of the state policy of ensuring the state sovereignty of Ukraine over the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts is to liberate these territories and resume their constitutional order.


We already have a “predecessor” of this bill - the resolution of Ukraine’s Parliament dated March 17, 2015, No. 254-VIII “On recognition of individual regions, cities, towns and villages of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts as temporarily occupied territories” - however, frankly speaking, it has had no serious legal consequences.


But the wording of the latest bills on the reintegration of Donbas is of interest not in itself, but in connection with the official point of view of the UOC-Moscow Patriarchate regarding the Ukrainian-Russian war. This church jurisdiction almost from the very beginning adopted a very peculiar position: being above the fight, obviously while playing up to the aggressor. And for this purpose, the concept of "internecine (fratricidal war)" (as a variation - "civil war") was introduced. For a while, this gave the UOC-MP a bunch of moral privileges – from the failure to denounce the aggressor to the implicit right to support the other side of the conflict. But the implementation of the new law will force the clergy to make a conscious choice: either agree with the status of Donbass as a territory occupied by Russia, or actually recognize themselves as collaborators of the occupation authorities - with all the consequences that might follow.



At one time, Metropolitan Onufriy, the Primate of the UOC-MP, when asked about Russia's aggression in the Crimea, answered as he probably considered the top of moderation: “I'm not a politician, I cannot answer this question.” The law on the reintegration of Donbas places all political dots above the "i" and does not allow any ambiguity. Consequently, if a church institution is involved, in one way or another, in cooperation with the occupation authorities, it actually equates it with such power. Responsibility for collaboration will be declared globally after the end of the war. However, now as a consequence, for the UOC-MP, the possibility of penetration into the combat units of the Ukrainian Army in order to perform the chaplain service should now become considerably complicated.



The draft law also pertains that any act issued in connection with illegal occupation is invalid and does not entail legal consequences. This means that after the resumption of the Ukrainian governance in these territories all legal documents on the basis of which the UOC-MP has become the owner of any property will put into question. For example, in 2015, in the Diocese of Luhansk the newly built temple of John the Baptist was consecrated in Cooperative "Svitanok" near Luhansk. It is unlikely that the registration of legal documents for this building was carried out according to the laws of Ukraine.


Orthodox-separatist symphony



In general, the Diocese of Luhansk and Alchevsk of the UOC-MP are an unprecedented example of shameless cooperation of representatives of the “Ukrainian” Church with puppet government in the territory of Luhansk Oblast of Ukraine. Despite all the fierce denials from the ruling bishop of the diocese, Metropolitan Mitrofan (Yurchuk), there is information that he and his subordinates closely collaborate with the government of “Luhansk People’s Republic”, while the "Committee on Religious Affairs and Spirituality of the LPR", led by Andriy Litsoyev, is directly guided by the secretary of the diocesan the management of Hieromonk Makarios (Lyubavtsev).



The law on reintegration is also a signal to the Ecumenical Orthodox Church, whose representatives are sometimes compelled to follow the outdated terminology imposed by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has not mentally yet overcome from the Middle Ages. Thus, at one time, Patriarch Bartholomew made an appeal to Ukrainian journalists, which reads literally as follows: “We pray for the unity of the Ukrainian people. We pray for peace in Ukraine. We hope that the fratricidal war will stop.” The wording is very unsuccessful both from the historical perspective and from the current political perspective. And, of course, the witnesses of the “Civil War in Ukraine” caught up this wording, celebrating victory. Although Patriarch Bartholomew appealed to the story of Yaroslav the Wise, who “tried to prevent the strife between his five sons, sharing their empire between them.” This is a very non-trivial passage, especially in the context of the trend of “collecting Russian lands”. If the general empire motivates the war – it is better to divide it. Incidentally, this is why the Soviet Union collapsed – until 1991 it became clear that inter-ethnic bloody conflicts could not be avoided, if the civilized dismantling of the empire is not agreed on.



Of course, the story of Yaroslav in the form it is outlined in the Patriarchal Epistle was interpreted differently. Someone saw a hint to federalization of Donbas, others, on the contrary, a hint that among the brothers there should not be disagreement and disputes about power – everyone is satisfied with his lot and honors the throne of Kyiv as a ruling throne.



Prince Yaroslav is said to have a very prominent biography. Yaroslav knew the point in an internecine struggle. He was not a quiet “study nerd”, who spent all his time in books. By 1036, he had subordinated all the Russian principalities, apart from Polotsk. So it is exactly Yaroslav who is the first collector of Russian lands, and not Ivan Kalita, Prince of Moscow. Yaroslav fought with the Emperor of Constantinople, appointed the first Russian Metropolitan Hilarion and became the "father" of many European royal dynasties. It is interesting that the Russian monarchy imported "fresh blood", while in Yaroslav’s tenure there was a reverse process.



So, what is wrong about the passage about Yaroslav and ancient Russian strife? It is the fact that Ukraine has long abandoned the paradigm of Ancient Rus of the pre-Mongol period. Rather the allusion to fight Tatar invasion is more relevant than talking about internal strife. It is a civilization war, not a struggle for the throne. Therefore, all the positive messages of this story, which may have been implied by the Patriarchal Epistle, were not adequately evaluated. Everything else – historical conditions, internal relations, external factors ... Does Patriarch Bartholomew call the fighters in Donbass to recognize themselves Ukrainians and brothers? Does the Ukrainian nationality of some of them automatically make them Ukrainians and brothers? Unfortunately, not. If everything was so simple. They just play the role of the same agents of influence. Could the agents of the influence of a foreign country be brothers? Is their desire to destroy their country in favor of a neighboring country a civil war?



In brief, as practice shows, any attempts to draw parallels between contemporary Ukraine and Kyivan Rus are doomed to war of interpretation.



And for the similar interpretations, there are no preconditions yet. Yes, all parties consider themselves offended and require satisfaction. Somebody is right, someone is not. The Ecumenical See hesitates between the peacekeeper's compelled mission and the principle of “two in a fight - the third should not interfere". But the time, which is slipping through like sand, not only does not heal our wounds, but even enhances entropy. And sooner or later it will be necessary to make an arbitrary decision that extends beyond the prayer for the Ukrainian people.


Unfortunately, the draft law on reintegration did not declare responsibility for the non-recognition of the occupation of the Donbas - as was the case with the non-recognition of the Holodomor as genocide. In addition, there is no responsibility for cooperating with the occupation authorities or supporting the occupation troops. It would be desirable that the theme of responsibility will sound clearly in the final version of the bill. And everyone has to make a choice of their own.