Monday, May 23, 2022

    (Not-so-) dear Ukrainians. Why ROC holds procession in Kyiv, while canceling Moscow event

    On Monday, July 26, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) said it decided to abandon the traditional procession in Moscow on the Day of the Baptism of Rus. At the same time, on Tuesday, July 27, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (ROCinU) did hold it in Kyiv.

    Moscow Patriarchate official Vladimir Legoida said the “procession will take place in Kyiv on July 27 and there will be a liturgy in the [Kyiv-Pechersk] Lavra.” As for “Moscow”, “for several years in a row we had a procession from the Kremlin from the Assumption Cathedral to the monument to Prince Vladimir, but on July 28 such procession will not take place.”

    The ROC decided to save their dear Russians instead of driving them through the streets in the abnormal heat, even more so, on the eve of the fourth wave of coronavirus. But the ROCinU seems to not be caring about their (not-so-) dear Ukrainians. Moreover, the ROCinU did everything to make the procession in Kyiv inconvenient and dangerous. The organizers brought pilgrims from all over Ukraine and took them to the streets at noon when the air heated up to +30°C.

    In summer, the most dangerous hours are from 11 to 16, when the solar activity is at its peak. Doctors forbid the elderly and the sick (among the pilgrims there’re many with poor health) to go outside at these hours, as it is dangerous for their lives.

    At 13:00, a solemn service began on Volodymyrska Hill in Kyiv. And after that, the column of believers went on a long way through the center to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Judging by numerous photos and videos, the organizers from the ROCinU were not monitoring social distancing compliance, weren’t providing pilgrims with masks, sanitizers or drinking water… As a result, according to Ukrainian media, several pilgrims got sick and ambulance teams were called.

    “Yesterday we had a procession, some 55,000 people. I understand that this is a festivity, but I haven’t seen any communication from the Kyiv authorities. They are afraid to communicate, they don’t want to tell people directly – be careful. Some 55,000 came to Kyiv, most of them elderly people. They were all supposed to be wearing masks, at least. I didn’t see any masks there. Is this really that difficult?” President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stated the next day.

    According to him, the pilgrims were brought by buses, in organized groups, but many elderly believers had to spend the night in and outside the Lavra. “If such a procession is organized… it should have been ensured that masks were mandated at the sites where people spend the night. They didn’t even have drinking water so the police would give it to people,” the president said.

    It should be noted here that the ROC approaches the processions issue in Russia more responsibly than it does in Ukraine.

    In particular, on July 17, the ROC held a massive procession in Yekaterinburg in memory of the execution of the Royal family. Initially, Russian authorities tried to ban it. “This year we will not be holding a procession during the ‘Royal Days.’ [In 2020] it seemed to us that the pandemic was declining, but it was only the end of the first wave. We have several proven cases where people got sick after the ‘Royal Days.’ The disease hit them quite severely, “said the governor of the Sverdlovsk region, Yevgeny Kuyvashev.

    He noted that “the new [Delta] strain […] is even more dangerous”, “so this year we are not coordinating the event”. By the way, this is also relevant for Ukraine. The fourth coronavirus wave is expected all over the world, and due to the efforts of the ROCinU of Ukraine, it may hit the country earlier than elsewhere.

    But let’s go back to Ekaterinburg… The press service of the Ekaterinburg diocese said they had “a large number of face masks and sanitizers,” and that “volunteers would be monitoring social distancing compliance.” In addition, the procession in Yekaterinburg took place at night, not during the hot day hours, as was in Kyiv.

    Another procession of pilgrims took place on July 21 in Kazan in honor of the consecration of the Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. According to Russian media, the event began at eight in the morning, when a limited number of believers were allowed into the church, according to health safety requirements. Everyone else observed the service in the square where video screens were set up installed, or at home on TV.

    We could further draw parallels between how the ROC organizes processions in Russia and how the ROCinU does in Ukraine, but many Ukrainians have long realized that the ROCinU isn’t about faith. In Ukraine, the ROCinU, just like some “Ukrainian” media, politicians, and journalists, has been working for the Kremlin.

    In the case of the Kyiv procession, the mastermind behind the event aimed to provoke the authorities and wage a split into Ukraine’s civil society, as well as to spark the fourth wave of the coronavirus disease. They have partially failed in fulfilling their task, but the ROCinU will have to take responsibility for the potential corona-related deaths of Ukrainian believers.

    Viktoria Zubkova is a Ukraine-based political commentator