Saturday, June 8, 2024

    “Dark PR man” of UOC (MP) Bob Amsterdam reproaches Ecumenical Patriarch for backing “Ukrainian nationalism”

    This is a translation of an article penned by religious analyst and SFU co-founder Oleksandr Kyrylenko for

    American lawyer and lobbyist Robert Amsterdam, hired last fall free of charge by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate) to promote its interests in the West, launched an intimidation campaign against Ukrainian state authorities and then targeted His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. An open letter signed by Amsterdam and addressed to His All-Holiness was published by an acclaimed Turkish newspaper Hurriyet on March 27, 2024. But the real authors of this letter are based not in the USA or UK, but in the Kremlin or one of the offices of the UOC (MP) Chief of Staff Antoniy (Pakanych). Which is actually the same thing.

    Who is Robert Amsterdam?

    Late September 2023, the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (in unity with the Moscow Patriarchate) appealed for international legal assistance. And in less than a month, the UOC (MP) “in compliance with the decision of the Holy Synod”, turned to the international law firm “AMSTERDAM & PARTNERS LLP”, which agreed to provide legal assistance “on a charitable basis”. The company confirmed the report.

    Literally the next day, a large-scale campaign against the Ukrainian authorities was unleashed. First, an article by American lobbyist William Bjork-White was published, and in a week, Robert Amsterdam did a scandalous interview with propaganda media figure Tucker Carlson, who recently also interviewed Vladimir Putin.

    But before all that, in August 2023, Vadym Novinsky, a sanctioned Russo-Ukrainian oligarch, hired Robert Amsterdam and his company to protect his interests, too. As stated in the press release of the lawyers, the case concerns “persecution of Novinsky for religious reasons.”

    The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) officially announced that it does not pay anything to Amsterdam because his company renders services on a charitable basis. But in fact, their by ni means cheap work is paid for by Amsterdam’s other client, Vadym Novinsky, who hold a Russian passport – something Robert Amsterdam stubbornly choosws not to notice.

    In reality, Amsterdam would better be referred to as a propagandist, not a lawyer. He is not even trying to improve the image of his client as all he is doing is slandering his opponents. To back tha point, it should be pointed that his firm made no legal action whatsoever six months into starting to work for UOC (MP)-Novinsky. Instead, Amsterdam pours mud on and intimidates opponents of the UOC (MP)-Novinsky.

    Threats to Ukrainian authorities

    Robert Amsterdam launched an attack on the leadership of Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) of Ukraine and its members. In a letter, Amsterdam directly accuses Ukrainian parliamentarians (“your attack on the UOC is intensifying”) and threatens them (“this exposes you personally to legal responsibility in countries around the world”, “as well as possible criminal penalties”) as regards the process of adoption of adoption of Bill No. 8371.

    The latest draft of the Law  “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Activities of Religious Organizations in Ukraine” (No. 8371), which is colloquially referred to as “Law on the Prohibition of the UOC (MP)”, approved by the profile Parliamentary Committee on March 5, 2024, is not perfect and requires further expert discussion of the mechanisms, laid down in the bill. However,  this is purely a domestic affair, in which Robert Amsterdam intervenes for the reward from the Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Vadym Novinsky.

    Amsterdam targeting Ecumenical Patriarch

    In short, the contents of the false accusations put forward by Robert Amsterdam to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in the Hurriyet newspaper can be reduced to claims of him “supporting Ukrainian nationalism and autocephaly” and “interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine.” As the letter states, the Tomos of autocephaly, given by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, “paved the way for attacks on the UOC (MP).”

    There is no doubt that this letter was written either under the watchful eye of the UOC (MP) Chief of Staff, an ardent anti-autocephalist Antoniy (Pakanych), or the Kremlin, which, again, makes no difference at all.

    The first false manipulation is that the authors of the letter accuse Patriarch Bartholomew of “supporting Ukrainian nationalism”, which he “condemned” back in 2008.

    “In July 2008, Your All-Holiness visited Kyiv to celebrate the anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus. Shortly thereafter, in a speech in the European Parliament, Your All-Holiness made statements that showed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is aware of the dangers of nationalism in Ukraine. Thus, Your All-Holiness promised that the Ecumenical Patriarchate seeks “not to promote nationalist or ethnophiletic causes at the expense of any part of society,” the authors of the letter write.

    What did His All-Holiness actually say in Brussels on September 24, 2008?

    “Today, when we have the technological means to transcend the horizon of our own cultural self-awareness, we nevertheless continue to witness the terrible effects of human fragmentation. Tribalism, fundamentalism, and phyletism – which is extreme nationalism without regard to the rights of the other – all these contribute to the ongoing list of atrocities that give pause to our claims of being civilized in the first place,” says the speech of His All-Holiness and Ukraine is not mentioned a single word.

    The authors also echo their favorite pro-Russian narrative: “Patriarch Bartholomew, having given the Tomos to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, interfered in the internal affairs of Ukraine.” Russian and pro-Russian propagandists have been repeating this mantra since the end of 2018, when the unification process of Ukrainian Orthodoxy began in Ukraine. Then, out of dozens of UOC (MP) bishops invited by Patriarch Bartholomew to the Unification Council, only two attended. This was indicative of the true intentions of the UOC (MP) leadership. But even after that, His All-Holiness declared that his call for dialogue with the hierarchs of the UOC (MP) remains in place.

    The authors of the letter unequivocally state that “the UOC [MP] is threatened with closure as the movement for autocephaly swoops in to feed off the carcass of the Church”, but bashfully remain silent about what Church the Ukrainian people want to be independent from? And right away, they themselves give an answer to this question, quoting the late Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware): “I do not believe it is right for the Patriarch of Constantinople to interfere in the affairs of a territory which is a part of the Russian Church.”

    “The decision of Your All-Holiness was widely condemned and many Orthodox bishops had deep reservations,” the authors of the letter write. And once again they bashfully omit the fact that the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was recognized, together with Constantinople, by the Patriarchate of Alexandria, and the Churches of Greece and Cyprus. And the “broad condemnation”, as the authors of the letter claim,  does not prevent the bishops from many other Local Churches from concelebrating with the hierarchs of the OCU.

    So it turns out that yet another libel on behalf of Amsterdam and the UOC (MP)-Novinsky alliance is aimed at inflaming the already difficult religious situation in Ukraine. The purpose is to humiliate Ukraine in the eyes of its partners as the nation is  repelling the onslaught of Russia. And it’s the latter who is paying for this ugly campaign.