Ukraine: Autocephaly, security services, Maidan anniversary, and Azov Sea

22.11.2018, Donetsk.

Ukraine’s foreign and internal political life remains heated, and it is far from cooling down.

The actions of the Ukrainian authorities, who detain and arrest ships for visiting Crimean ports, “escalate the international situation,” said the head of the Crimean Parliament Committee for Inter-ethnic Relations Yuri Gempel, RIA Novosti reported on November 16.

The member of the Crimean Parliament expressed his protest after  it became known that 15 ships were detained by Ukraine. To explain this action, Ukraine accused these ships of “illegally visiting the ports of the occupied Crimea.”

Commenting this situation, Yuri Gempel stressed that such actions jeopardize good neighborly relations between the two countries. The head of the Crimean Parliament Committee for Inter-ethnic Relations believes that such practice is unacceptable. He said, “I think that such brazen invectives against Russia should be curbed.”

According to Yuri Gempel, this was the official Kiev’s reaction to the expansion of trade relations with Russian Crimea.” At the same time, the Ukrainian authorities’ actions are harmful for their own country. According to the Crimean official, “such Ukrainian policy looks like cutting the branch it is sitting on,” because the Kiev authorities “are undermining their own economy.” According to Russian media reports, the detained ships are now in the Mariupol and Berdyansk ports, and some of them have already been arrested. It remains unknown whether there are any Russian-owned ships among them. According to media reports, the Ukrainian Border Police pays closer attention to ships that visit Crimea. A total of 940 ships have come under Ukrainian Border Police scrutiny. These are mainly ships that maintain the operation of the Crimean port infrastructure.

The Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov commented this problem. “Of course, the situation is closely monitored. In strict accordance with the international maritime law and other international laws, we can take measures to protect the interests of the Russian mariners as well as entities and persons,” RT reported.

The Deputy Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee Frants Klintsevich said that the detention of the 15 ships could give Russia a reason for “an intense reaction” including blocking the Azov Sea for Ukrainian ships, the Zvezda TV channel reported.

Ukraine, through the presidential representative in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) Irina Lutsenko, responding to Frants Klintsevich, promised “a tough response from Ukraine.” According to the Ukrainian president’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada, there are “several lawsuits regarding violations of the Law of the Sea Convention committed by the Russian Federation.”

The official Kiev traditionally has many grievances against Russia. The reasons for Ukraine’s angry protests include the actions of the Russian Border Guard Service. Russian Border Guard Service personnel inspect Ukrainian ships only when they enter Russia’s exclusive economic zone. On November 16, TASS reported such a situation, citing the Russian president’s press secretary. He stressed that the Russian officials “strictly observe the law.” The Russian Federation has the right to prevent any illegal harvesting of aquatic bioresources, which “legitimizes any appropriate inspection measures.”

The Azov Sea issue is quite sensitive for Ukrainian politicians, because Kiev administration’s real capabilities obviously fail to keep up with their loud and very ambitious rhetoric. According to the Zvezda TV channel, Ukrainian politician Georgy Tuka publicly admitted that building a naval base “in Berdyansk or Mariupol” as a basis for “a powerful Navy” is an impossible dream. This highly publicized project “has nothing to do with the current reality or with the current warfare demands, including those of naval warfare.”

However, in addition to disputes with Russia regarding various provisions of the maritime law, Ukraine has irrevocable goals for the present day, e.g. the need to celebrate another anniversary of Maidan. The units of The State Emergency Service of Ukraine are intensively preparing for the celebrations. A large exercise is scheduled for 20-22 November in Kiev, and the residents are asked not to worry, Ukrainski Novini reports. The holiday itself, according to Voennoye Obozrenie (Military Review), will be celebrated in the form of a very unusual event for schoolchildren. Kiev will host a competition called “Capital Sniper 2018”. It must be recalled that the so called Euro-Maidan was marked by a group of snipers who fired into the crowd of protesters. Those who organized the mass disorders blamed this provocation on law enforcement officials from the Berkut unit.

It should be reminded that the Ukrainian nationalists glorified the victims of the sniper fire as national heroes, and today they are called “the Heavenly Hundred.” The Ukrainian investigative authorities claimed that they managed to arrest a person who was in a sniper group, and that he was a former member of the Omega special unit. The others reportedly successfully fled. However, on the air of the Italian Matrix TV channel in November 2017, a statement of a group of Georgian nationals was briefly covered, in which they claimed themselves responsible for firing on the protesters. They said that the instigators were Maidan organizers, who are government officials today.

Information coming from Ukraine requires a reaction from officials of the European Union, too, which the Ukrainian supporters of European integration want so much to join. On November 16, RIA Novosti cited a comment made by an EU official regarding a video taken in the Ternopol region. A children’s camp was organized there. The camp was organized by a youth organization of the Svoboda (Freedom) far-right radical nationalist party. The organizers taught children to fire assault riflse, and they explained to the young Ukrainians in detail that it was absolutely acceptable to shoot the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. The story had a high profile as it was broadcast by the Euronews channel.

The mass disorders that resulted in the removal of the legally elected President Yanukovich from power planted a persistent tradition of a special kind of attitude towards public authorities among the Ukrainian society. INTERFAX.RU reported an attack against the head of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine (HQCJ) Sergey Kozyakov. Unidentified attackers threw green dye at him at about 1:00 PM on November 16. Sergey Kozyakov was ambushed at the Hilton Hotel in Kiev, where the 7th Judicial Forum was taking place.

Domestic Ukrainian life remains tense. Ukrainski Novini reported a rally of miners, who blocked the Lvov – Rava Russkaya international highway near the city of Zholkva (Lvov region). They demanded that their salary debts be paid. The miners’ protest had no success, unlike that of the Krivoy Rog residents, who made the Ukrainian Naftogaz provide fuel for their boiler stations. Ukrainski Novini also reported that in the city of Smela, Cherkassy region, “15 boiler stations were connected to the gas supply” without any approval from the Naftogaz state-owned company.

The Ukrainian society is torn apart by conflicts in many areas of its life, including religion. The turmoil over the autocephaly promised by the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople continues for several months. reported a coming lawsuit between the head of the Vinnitsa Diocese Metropolitan Simeon and the clerics that he governs. Simeon is the only bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who refused to break his relations with the Patriarch of Constantinople. The clergymen of Vinnitsa oppose the autocephaly, and they are committed to remove the current bishop for supporting autocephaly.

The passions keep rising. The crisis around the Ukrainian Orthodox Christianity escalates. This process meets a vivid and quite negative reaction in many Orthodox communities worldwide. According to a TASS report of November 16, the Bishops’ Council of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church had made its decision regarding “the so-called ‘Patriarchate of Kiev’ and the so-called ‘Autocephalous Church’.” The Polish Orthodox clergymen must not “have any liturgical or prayer contacts” with members of this religious organization anymore. The authors of the document published at the official web site of the Polish Church justify their decision with the fact that the officials of the Patriarchate of Kiev “have done much evil in their current activities.”

The autocephaly issue from the very beginning has been beyond a merely religious dispute, having a very secular, political dimension. Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on November 17 that the bishops of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church were strongly urged to support autocephaly and accept that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s actions were legitimate. This time, new figures are involved in the agitation among the clergymen. Officials of the Ukrainian Security Service (Ukrainian: SBU) have joined the religious dispute. They actively invite bishops to talk and strongly recommend them not to oppose Bartholomew’s actions, who apparently intends to make the Kiev Metropolia part of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The interest in religious issues is apparently typical of Ukrainian security services officials on all levels, and it affects their priorities in work. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (Ukrainian: NABU) will probably become a permanent component in the lives of members of various denominations. According to a REGNUM report of November 16, NABU officials tried to establish silent control over the capital’s main synagogue. However, the security service officials failed to keep secrecy and remain unidentified. Members of the synagogue, using technical assistance provided by their Israeli fellow,adherents uncovered the surveillance. Furthermore, the clergymen successfully identified the NABU surveillance team, and they immediately informed the media. Now members of the Rada are trying to stifle the scandal, which has reached the international level.

It remains unclear whether such an intense pace of events will result in any significant changes in Ukrainian political life. Anyhow, the processes described above have gained a high momentum, and they will further develop in the near future.

Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency

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