Tuesday, December 7, 2021

    Cycle of ROC scenarios: From Montenegro to Ukraine, and back

    Religion is beyond politics. But only when the ROC isn’t involved…

    In December 2019, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic put into force a law on freedom of religion and belief, and the legal status of religious communities, which delivered a great blow to the influence – and, moreover, the monopoly – of the Serbian Church. In fact, the situation was similar to that in Ukraine, where the granting of autocephaly to the OCU undermined the monopoly of the Moscow Patriarchate.

    The SOC, which is an ROC branch, offered a lightning-speed reaction – a wave of riots by |Serbian Church supporters swept through Montenegro. Moreover, in January, a number of reports revealed direct participation in and support of these rallies by operatives with Russia’s military intelligence (GRU), who consulted and directed the moves of SOC clergy and activists.

    After the riots were quelled, the so-called “Montenegrin scenario” moved to Ukraine. For two years, representatives of the ROCinU have been persistently intimidating Ukrainian authorities, the OCU, and general public. In a sense, it was for a good reason as precisely this kind of destabilization was on the agenda of the ROC branch in Ukraine, as the main way of sowing chaos in the country.

    However, the ROC and Co. failed to practically implement the “Montenegrin scenario”, even more so on the eve of the arrival of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Ukraine on the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence, largely due to the coordinated efforts of Ukraine’s security and law enforcement agencies.

    And now, genuinely stunned, I see reports that in Montenegro, the rallies around the enthronement of Metropolitan Joanikije of Montenegro and the Littoral are peculiarly branded the “Ukrainian scenario.”

    At the moment, it is difficult to claim with any confidence who is the real mastermind behind the riots, because it’s well known that both rivaling parties could go for escalation and radicalize even patriotic groups to portray a distorted picture of what’s really happening in the country. However, what we’re observing right now is a rather interesting whiff-whaff in the information flow. When certain forces seek to wreak havoc in Ukraine, they claim “Montenegrin scenario”, and when the conflict turf is Montenegro, it’s referred to as “Ukrainian scenario.” At the same time, in both cases, the ROC is behind this chaos. And it’s happening precisely in the countries where the influence of this religious organization has been rapidly shrinking.

    Does this look like a coincidence to you?

    Oleksandr Kovalenko, a Ukrainian expert