Kiev (AsiaNews) - The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia yesterday ended a two day visit to the Ukrainian capital, coinciding with the inauguration of new president Victor Yanukovich. In this way the presidency of the new head of the Ukrainian state began with the blessing of the Russian religious leader, given that Moscow was unable to have a more explicit political involvement. For this, Kirill’s visit has raised some controversy.
Together with Metropolitan Vladimir, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kirill yesterday led a ceremony of thanksgiving and intercession at the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. Soon after, Yanukovich, present at the function, went to the Supreme Rada, where he swore an oath.
The arrival of Kirill, on 24 February, was welcomed by local nationalist groups as evidence of the "allegiance of Ukraine to the Russian Federation". "The invitation of the new head of state to the patriarch of a neighbouring nation, to bless his election, confirms Yanukovich’s colonial dependence on Moscow," said the statement by the Congress of the nationalists. The religious ceremony, continue the activists, was "the crowning of a vassal, a humiliation for the country."
Despite repeated appeals from the Patriarchate of Kiev not to exploit the visit of Kirill in the political sense, the event can only be read as a clear sign of the Russian Bear's closeness to the new chief of the former satellite state. Moscow rejected the pro Western policies of former President Victor Yushchenko, leader of the defunct Orange Revolution, and strong opponent of Russian influence.
Already last week, the Kremlin had made known its satisfaction with the outcome of the election, asking Yanukovich to come to Moscow soon. In the need to dispel doubts about the seriousness of his opening to the west, Yanukovich announced Brussels as a destination of his first foreign mission, but the visit of Patriarch of Moscow is eloquent sign of the strong dependence of the former breadbasket of Europe on its larger neighbour.
This was Kirill’s second visit to Ukraine since his election in January 2009. The first trip, last August, was accompanied by strong protests from supporters of the independence of the Orthodox Church of Kiev. In Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church is trying to cope with a situation of great tension between different communities. There are three churches that make reference to orthodoxy: Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Patriarchate of Moscow (UOC-MP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Patriarchate of Kiev (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church (UAOC). The interlocutor with the Russian clergy is the Ukrainian-Patriarchate of Moscow, but last year Kirill launched signs of opening to the other two branches of Orthodoxy, united opposition to the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine. The election of a pro-Russian leader to the presidency now promises to relaunch dialogue between the different components of the Ukrainian Orthodox toward a possible unification.