Kiev, August 7, 2019
President Vladimir Zelensky is on a working visit to Turkey today and tomorrow, according to the presidential press service.
The Ukrainian head of state will hold negotiations with the Turkish head of state, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and will have a meeting with representatives of the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar communities.
President Zelesnky will also meet with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who, together with Zelensky’s predecessor Poroshenko, created the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” (OCU) on the canonical territory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian political analyst Alexei Yakubin, certain members of Zelensky’s circle who are supporters of the schismatic OCU are constantly trying to push him to become a “second Poroshenko.”
Speaking at a “GolosUA” press conference on Monday, Yakubin said he believes the key issue of the meeting between Zelesnky and Pat. Bartholomew will be that Zelensky has distanced himself from the religious theme that so dominated in Poroshenko’s policies.
“I cannot rule out that this meeting with Bartholomew is an attempt … to somehow involve Zelensky in Church topics, including, perhaps, on the side of the OCU,” the expert said, noting, for example, that the son of Andrei Yurash, the head of the Ukrainian Department of Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture, who was actively involved in the process of creating the OCU and obtaining a tomos of autocephaly for it from Constantinople, is a member of Zelensky’s Servant of the People Party.
The meeting could also concern certain personnel appointments, Yakubin believes.
At the meeting, Pat. Bartholomew will try to “probe” Zelensky, to see how ready he is to fulfill the promises of his predecessor, Yakubin said, referring to the agreement whereby the Ukrainian government would transfer a number of church properties to the Patriarchate of Constantinople in exchange for a tomos of autocephaly for the OCU.
The agreement was not fulfilled while Poroshenko remained in office. Contrary to Ukrainian law, Poroshenko’s administration refused for several months to publish the November 3 agreement, though it was eventually published on the site Ukrainian News in March. The Patriarchate has thus far received only St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Kiev.
Meanwhile, another Ukrainian political analyst, Konstantin Bondarenko believes the Church-state meeting is being held at the behest of the U.S. State Department.
“Since the escapade with the tomos was planned in Washington (Brownback, the State Department’s Plenipotentiary for Religious Affairs, was involved with it), and Ukraine remains in the U.S.’s fairway under the new president, it continues the same line,” Bondarenko told the Ukrainian outlet strana.ua.
“Most likely it is also the desire of the State Department that the President of Ukraine demonstrate that he will continue the line of the previous president. It is clear that no one will carry out such an escalation in Church politics as under Poroshenko. Zelensky is far from Church issues,” Bondarenko said.
The State Department has made no secret of its support for the creation of the OCU. In addition to Brownback, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt has also been pressuring key Church officials in Greece to recognize the OCU.
Moreover, OCU “hierarch” Makary Maletich has openly admitted on more than one occasion that the support and involvement of the U.S. was a critical and necessary factor in Pat. Bartholomew’s decision to move ahead with the creation of the OCU and the granting of a tomos of autocephaly to it.