Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, who was ousted in a West-backed coup in 2014, has slammed Kiev politicians for meddling in the Orthodox Church affairs, in a rare press appearance in Moscow.
“It was intolerable of the state, the politicians and the president to interfere in church affairs,” Yanukovich told journalists, arguing that the creation of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine was aimed at sowing “division, enmity and hatred.”
Throughout the history of Ukraine “none of the presidents have meddled in church business” and the church has always been separated from the state, he said.
Orthodox Christianity faced a major rift recently after the current government of Ukraine decided to create its own church, independent from the Moscow Patriarchate. The move was largely seen as part of Kiev’s overall effort to break all ties with Russia – and a part of President Petro Poroshenko’s re-election campaign.
The newly created entity got the backing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople while the other heads of the Orthodox world have either been silent on the new church or have outright condemned it.
The ousted president, who has himself faced accusations of ordering violence while trying to tackle the 2014 protests that resulted in a coup backed by the US and the EU, went even further, calling the current situation in Ukraine “institutionalized terrorism” that poses a danger to the nation and to the world. “It’s a shame,” he said, that the heroes of today’s Ukraine are “pogrom-makers, anti-Semites and all sorts of radicals. Young people look up to them.”
Earlier this year, Kiev declared the birthday of Stepan Bandera – a nationalist leader and Nazi collaborator who’s been hailed as a hero for fighting the Soviets – a national holiday.
In January, a Ukrainian court sentenced Yanukovich, now living in southern Russia, in absentia to 13 years in jail on treason charges. The former president blamed the Ukrainian authorities for exercising “unprecedented pressure” on the court and said that the decision “has nothing to do with the law.”
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