(AsiaNews) - As street protests continue in Ukraine, not only the Ukrainian people claim integration with Europe and autonomy from Moscow , but also the local Orthodox Church, which has openly taken sides in favor of the protesters and appealed for the recognition of autocephaly [independence from other churches ]. Mobilized for almost 20 days, the popular protests initially called for the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, which President Viktor Yanukovych has renounced, yielding to the pressure of Russia. As the days passed , however, amid police violence against protesters and behind the scenes maneuvering of the president, who continues to wink at the Kremlin , the goal is now the resignation of the entire government.
It took Moscow several days to break its silence about the events taking place in Kiev. On December 2, President Vladimir Putin, criticized the nationalist character of the protest, which - he said - "looks more like a pogrom than a revolution." For Putin , the demonstrations in Kiev "have nothing to do with the relations between Ukraine and the EU" , but " were prepared ahead of the presidential elections of 2015 " to topple the " legitimate authorities " of the country , with " groups of well-trained militants". A direct reference to the always dreaded " foreign intervention " , as in the case of the Orange Revolution of 2004.
Even the Russian Orthodox Church has been slow to comment on the situation in Ukraine, where the clergy took to the streets with people and , last November 30 , offered help and shelter to protesters in the Cathedral of St. Michael in Kiev. On 8 December , Patriarch Kirill launched an appeal for "peace " in Ukraine and that " it safeguard the spiritual unity of the Holy Rus ' , the unity of its Church." That of ' "unity" between the two neighboring nations is the same leitmotiv of Putin, the official media and also the belief of the majority of Russians: a survey recently conducted by the Levada Center showed that 61 % of respondents did not considers Ukraine a 'foreign state'. In fact, both the Kremlin and Danilovsky Monastery ( seat of the Patriarchate ) fear the loss of this unity.
A nation of 45 million people, Ukraine is the largest former Soviet republic after Russia (excluding Central Asia) and is an important piece of the former Empire, an important player in the construction of Putin's Eurosiatic dream to unite, the former Soviet space under the 'economic and political influence' of Moscow. The Eurasian Union project can not be separated from Kiev for economic reasons, given the strong Ukrainian-Russian ties in all geostrategic areas of production and trade; with the port of Sevastopol which houses the Russian Black Sea fleet. But also cultural-historical, the idea is that the confederation of mir russki ( Russian world ), which has at its base the reference to the Kievan Rus', which is considered the cradle of modern Russia , and in July Putin presided over celebrations , together with the head of the Orthodox Church, for 1025 years of conversion to Christianity . On this point, the interests of the Kremlin coincide with the aspirations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, intending to assume the role of heir to the Eastern Christian tradition and its influence on the immense transnational space, dominated by Russian culture and Orthodox traditions . Ukraine, is also useful in stemming the weight of the republics of Central Asia , with a Muslim majority . Such as Kazakhstan , which has already joined the Belarus Customs Union with Moscow.
For this reason, along with the cries of " Europa, Europa" which have punctuated Independence Square in Kiev in these days, the positions of Patriarch Filaret , the 84 year-old head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church cannot have pleased Moscow. According to various estimates - about 15% of the population belong to the church. " Our church is the people," the primate told the New York Times, who was excommunicated by the Patriarch of Moscow in '97 and guidance of one of the three entities of the Orthodox Church in the country , along with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church and the Ukrainian - Moscow Patriarchate. Only the latter is in communion with the other Eastern Orthodox Churches, while the first two - partly because of Russian pressure - have never been recognized. " We pray to God to help us to enter the European Union , in order to maintain our national sovereignty , peace and improve the lives of our people ," Filaret added . "The Russian Church - he said in a lengthy interview on the radio Echo of Moscow - must recognize that as the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church and then establish fraternal relations , as with the other Orthodox Churches . This would be good for the Ukrainian Church and also for that of Russia " . "I'm sure the Kiev Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate will be one Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be one," he concluded , refusing to be defined schismatic and pointing out that there are already " signs of change towards unification ."