On August 28, a conference dedicated to “violations of religious rights in Ukraine” will be held in Belgrade. According to its organizers, the focus of the reports will be on the situation around the UOC (MP). The goal is to draw the attention of the Serbian public to the alleged “persecution” of this organization. The event is organized by the so-called Center for Geostrategic Studies. This was reported by the Pravoslavnaya Zhizn publication, which is close to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) and especially Metropolitan Antoniy (Pakanych) of Boryspil. It officially operates with the blessing of Metropolitan Onufriy (UOC – MP).
“In Ukraine, in front of the entire world community, the authorities are destroying the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [that is part of the Moscow Patriarchate – ed.]. This is a joint action of the Zelensky regime and the OCU, which is under the patronage of the Patriarchate of Constantinople… Churches have been seized, and its priests have been subjected to violence and persecution. Moreover, we witnessed a raider attack on one of the oldest centers of the Orthodox world – the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra…” claimed organizers.
At the event, an “expert assessment of outrageous violations of human rights” will be delivered. At the same time, the selection of “experts” who are to speak at the conference is surprising, to say the least. The absolute majority of them are neither neutral nor impartial. They do not hide their hatred for Ukraine and openly sympathize with the Russian Federation. Most of them are better known to readers of the Russian propaganda media than to residents of the countries they “represent”.
For example, the head of the Center for Geostrategic Studies, Dragana Trifkovic, has views that are too pro-Russian even for Serbia. In particular, she, unlike the majority of residents, opposes the country’s accession to the EU. Also, she is a member of various Russian govenrment organizations, such as the Academy under the President of the Russian Federation in Bryansk and the Anti-Terrorist Center of the CIS. On the issue of Ukraine, Trifkovic fully supports the invasion and annexation of territories. She believes that the war is a consequence of the “genocide of Russians in Donbas”, which had allegedly lasted for eight years. The political scholar twice illegally visited the occupied territories since 2014 in an attempt to legitimize the local sham elections fabricated by the invaders. Trifkovic shifts the responsibility for all war crimes committed by the Russians during the invasion to the Ukrainian authorities.
The statements of another speaker at the conference make us doubt his ability to adequately assess any religious situation in general. Thus, in the summer of 2022, Diogenes Valavanidis declared that Ukraine was “invented by Lenin and the Greek Catholics.” He does not consider the invasion of the Russian Federation to be illegal because “Russian civilization” was supposedly “conceived in Kyiv.” In his opinion, this fully justifies everything that Russia is doing now. Also, Valavanidis has repeatedly commented on the religious situation in Ukraine for the platforms run by the Russian Orthodox Church and, in addition, cooperates with the Russian propaganda state-owned media agency RT. Balkans.
Another “expert” at the conference, Konrad Rekas, presented as a Polish journalist, is known for his participation in Russian special information operations in Poland. In particular, he advocates the “return” of western Ukrainian lands and constantly generates fake news on the topic of “claims of the Polish government” to these lands. Also, he heads the local anti-Ukrainian organization Restytucja Kresów, which, according to his statements, pursues a policy aimed at worsening Ukrainian-Polish relations. Rekas considers Russia to be a “natural and historical ally,” and claims of espionage on its part are “hysteria.” In April 2023, he came to the attention of the Center for Countering Disinformation under the National Security Council of Ukraine as someone who spreads Russian fake news.
Other so-called experts who are supposed to “assess the persecution of the UOC (MP)” are also unknown beyond Russia’s propaganda resources. They have often promoted pro-Russian fakes and outright false narratives since 2014, advocating the annexation of Crimea, occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and since 2022 they have supported a full-scale invasion.
It should be recalled that the Russian Orthodox Church promotes the ideology of the Russian world among Russian youths.