By  Olena Sheremeta, for Detector media

Translated to English by Stanislav Olenchenko

Read in Russian

With the November’s decision of the Council of Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to Ukrainian Orthodox church, Russian media went through a phase of hysteria. As new topics emerged (which often were also concerned with Ukrainian politics, not  Russian), Russian propagandists seemed to have agreed that tomos was doomed for failure. However, the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and especially the granting of autocephaly on January 5th required a flexible reaction from the propagandists. First, they had to replace their failed forecasts with new explanations of the events surrounding the tomos. Secondly, Russian propaganda had to convince their audience that a church without tomos (like Russian Orthodox church) is, in fact, better than the church that has it. Thirdly, they had to distract the audience from the actual meaning of the events using any additional detail they could find: a fainted priest, Poroshenko’s chocolate, and even the Ukrainian first lady’s chest.

Here are some of the main messages that the Russian propaganda machine used when covering the acceptance of tomos by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine:

  • Dark times are waiting for Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomew who became isolated from the rest of the Orthodox Christian world after granting the “so-called tomos” to the “so-called” Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
  •  The “autocephaly” completely robs the OCU of its autonomy: the church now cannot appoint its hierarchs, operate outside of Ukraine or even produce the chrism for its ceremonies. Moreover, all the money of the “schismatics” will now flow to Constantinople.
  • The churches of Antioch, Poland, Serbia, and even the Alban church —  a traditional “satellite” of Constantinople — all strictly oppose the decision to establish the OCU. The churches of Georgia and Cyprus have also expressed similar opposition. The church of Greece will make its decision on a council on January 29th.
  • The Church of Serbia has stated it will not recognize the OCU and has deemed the decision a result of a “chauvinist Russophobes” activity.
  • Jerusalem’s patriarch Theophilos III not only denounced the OCU, which had been “created by Poroshenko and schismatics,” but also refused to meet with the “confectioner” during Poroshenko’s recent visit to Israel.
  • The Vatican refused to make contacts with the schismatic organization in Ukraine.
  • The OCU’s newly appointed metropolitan Epiphanius has not been greeted by any of the Eastern Orthodox church leaders, which is a violation of a two-week silence rule in the Orthodox Christian church.
  • The absurdity in Ukraine is growing: the Ukrainian “nazi” schismatics have suggested canonizing Poroshenko and have called him Equal to the Apostle Peter, “the third Kievan ruler together with Saint Olga and Saint Volodymyr.”
  • After Verkhovna Rada simplified the transition procedure for the church communities into the new “church,” the great violence and church property redistributions are coming. “After four years of vandalists’ attacks, we lost no more than 30 churches, because the believers are defending their faith.” Of course, the foreign puppet masters aim to take all the property of the only legitimate Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
  • Poroshenko has awarded Bartholomew with the first-degree Order of Merit. However, this is only the official information. In reality, the “bribe” for autocephaly is much larger:  Kyiv will give Constantinople the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and the Saviour Church at Berestove, which contains the remains of Moscow founder Yuri Dolgorukiy.
  • Epiphanius, the leader of the schismatics, is not being mentioned during the services at other Orthodox churches, which is a sign that nobody recognizes the “new church.” “If he had ever been mentioned, the schismatics would have already been shouting about it!”
  • Philaret himself “deeply disrespects” Bartholomew and has expressed this feeling by recently proclaiming himself “The Patriarch of the entire Rus and Ukraine.” With the same logic, he could have proclaimed himself a “transgalactic leader of the Orthodox Christianity.”
  • Although Philaret was awarded the Hero of Ukraine honor by Poroshenko, he can also be given a Hero of Russia honor for a full discredit of the OCU. Moreover, by giving Philaret this honor, Poroshenko has equaled Philaret to “terrorist” Nadia Savchenko.
  • Poroshenko’s political advisers deceived him by saying that his support in the polls would rise to 36%. However, the recent results of the surveys indicate that the “Equal to Apostle Peter” has only moved up from a fifth to a third place in the presidential race.
  • Poroshenko has started a Tomos-tour across all the Ukrainian districts, demonstrating this “meaningless paper” as his main accomplishment during his 5-year rule over the “impoverished country.”
  • Constantinople, which is ruled directly from the US, has a history of harming Russia. The attempts to give tomos to Ukraine started during Kuchma’s presidency and continued further under Yushchenko. Although Yanukovich stopped the negotiations, under Poroshenko, the process was restarted, discrediting the entire idea of autocephaly completely. As a result, the world has witnessed the real face of Constantinople.
  • Poroshenko tried on the role of a religious leader when he asked the Russian Orthodox Church to show their tomos. The tricky nuance about this scene was that the “so-called Constantinople Patriarchate, located permanently in Turkish Istanbul,” has never had any tomos.
  • Poroshenko claims to be the main fighter against “the Kremlin threat” while his country has completely lost its independence on the international arena. Moreover, Ukrainians have become even more impoverished and the trust of the EU and US toward Kyiv has fallen dramatically.
  • If the “Equal to Apostle” doesn’t get into the second round of the upcoming Presidential elections, he will escalate the violence in the Donbass conflict, blaming it all on Russia.
  • Poroshenko has no interest in the future of Ukraine — once he loses the next elections in March, he will “leave for the islands” with his partners. “The only thing Poroshenko is concerned with is the future of his military-chocolate-energetic billions.” After Poroshenko’s escape, the country will be left for the “nazis” to plunder, who will then sell off Ukraine to the West.

All the channels were screaming that Poroshenko promised the arrival of tomos by Christmas, so the delay could spoil the symbolism and the spirit of the ceremony. Bartholomew fell under criticism because he “didn’t fear the sin” of passing tomos to the “schismatic church” in the Christmas Eve. The Russian propagandists suggested that other members of the council in Istanbul must have known the delicate details of the church protocol, which means that Poroshenko has stolen the “paper” right in from of them, leaving the global Orthodox Christian community on the verge of a great schism, similar to that of 1054. All these maneuvers are done only to fulfill personal ambitions of Epiphanius and, of course, Poroshenko. As a result, tomos became a tool for the election race that Poroshenko hopes will save his current disastrous ratings.

Propagandists from NTV and REN-TV were full of sarcasm when reporting the euphoria that swept Ukraine and culminated into Poroshenko’s Tomos tour, which spread across 17 districts of the country. Continuing the feast, Poroshenko gave the Hero of Ukraine honor to “schismatic” Philaret, who in return gave Poroshenko the Apostle Andrew medal. The Patriarch from Istanbul has awarded a Christian Orthodox honor to Andriy Parubiy, a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The conclusion seems clear: the absurdity of this story is not going to end any time soon.

However, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) found comfort in assuming that this “political scheme regarding the legalization of Ukrainian schismatics” was not recognized by any other Christian Orthodox churches. Moreover, at the end of 2018, the leader of ROC Patriarch Kirill wrote a rageful letter to Bartholomew, calling him to stop collaborating with Ukrainian schismatics and threatening him with the Last Judgment. However, it seems that Bartholomew was not frightened enough by the potential of Last Judgment, pushing the ROC leader a step further to give an extended interview on Christmas to the  “Russia-1” channel, which was later quoted by numerous other channels.

“We observe how Ukrainian President chairs at the church council and chooses who is to be the leader of the church. Not only he intrudes into the church’s life, but he is also unashamed of doing it so publicly and openly, turning the entire process into a complete absurd. Can you imagine Vladimir Putin chairing at a church council, telling who should be elected as its leader, and announcing the patriarch to the rest of the country?” — Patriarch Kirill noted in the interview. He then announced that “Poroshenko and Bartholomew will not take away Christmas from the Orthodox Christian,” supposedly meaning that from now on Ukrainians will celebrate the holiday on 25th of December (which a blatant lie, of course).

Another idea that stroke ROC was the assumption that Ukraine will give away to Constantinople the Saviour Church at Berestove, where supposedly in 1157 was buried Moscow founder Yuri Dolgorukiy (an idea that has been denied by multiple historians). Theologists on the TV screens feared that even the remains themselves would be headed directly to Istanbul. “Obviously, the activities regarding the Saviour Church where the founder of Russian capital was buried are nothing more than a provocative gesture that underlines the tearing apart of all the connections between Kyiv and Moscow” —  argued propagandists.

Moreover, Russian propagandists tried once again to force the idea of a bribe that Poroshenko paid for the tomos. “Patriarch Bartholomew said that Poroshenko brought some more chocolate, hoping that this time he can convince everybody that there was no money mixed into the process, contrary to what some people say,” — “RIA Novosti” cite the “Svet Fanara” blog. After having a laugh at the “chocolate bribe,” propagandists became seriously concerned about Bartholomew’s “stealing” of the OCU parishes outside of Ukraine. It turned out these parishes exist in Poland and Russia (Belgorod and Kursk district, Crimea and Noginsk). In Crimea, there are three eparchies of Moscow’s Patriarchate, all of which refused to recognize the power of schismatics and remained loyal to the current metropolitan Onuphrius.

The Crimean cries did not stop there, however. Crimean hierarchs extensively commented on the negotiations between Poroshenko and Bartholomew, which were aimed to hand the peninsula’s monasteries under Constantinople’s rule. Earlier, metropolitan Pavel (Lebed), a vicar of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, told Ukrainian media that Bartholomew had such demands. It is unclear where the metropolitan got this information, however. Russian “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper wrote on January 18th that, “Constantinople Patriarch asked Poroshenko to hand over the Crimean church in the monetary equivalent.” Continuing to cite metropolitan Pavel, the newspaper claimed that “Bartholomew demanded from Poroshenko to hand over the Crimean churches under Constantinople’s rule. Poroshenko, baffled by this request, answered that he could not do that. Crimean priests called these negotiation attempts ridiculous.”

 Another news piece which reinforced the idea of “monetary compensation” was an article “No one will give Crimean monasteries to Constantinople” in “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” published on January 21st. Based mostly on false assumptions, the article contains an interview with someone called Ivan Meziuho who said that, “Because of this religious conflict, Ukraine is one step away from a bloody civil war. Of course, the story around autocephaly has signs of American intrusion. The great interest of the US Ambassador for the International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback in the religious affairs of Ukraine is another evidence for this claim. Moreover, the ties between Constantinople patriarch and the US are widely known. If the media is correct that Bartholomew demands Crimean monasteries and is ready to receive monetary compensation for them, then the leader of Constantinople Orthodoxy is far from true Christian values and behaves more like an entrepreneur searching for a profit.”

Poroshenko’s recent request for the ROC to show its own tomos was also met with outrage in Russia. On January 14th, “Radonezh” radio station’s director Evgeniy Nikiforov told in an interview to “Komsomolskaya Pravda”  that “To request tomos from the Russian church is like demanding tomos from Apostle Paul or Apostle Andrew. He could have also asked Jesus Christ ‘who are you?’” Not surprisingly, Nikiforov’s aphorism went viral on Russian TV. Other religious experts — regular guests at Russian political talk-shows — reassured the viewers that Russia has kept far more original church documents than Constantinople, which has been vandalized on multiple occasions for the last 600 years.

The NTV channel’s news piece “Poroshenko puts the Orthodox Christian church on the verge of a long-lasting schism,” released on January 5th, reported that, although the Ukrainian church did receive tomos, “the Moscow Patriarchate claimed the document had no canonical power.” Moreover, according to the report, the document “surprised the rest of the Christian Orthodox world.” “Poroshenko is mentioned in the tomos, which contradicts the church rules, as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church assures. The entire liturgy in Istanbul’s Saint George Cathedral looked more like a TV-show than a religious proceeding. Bartholomew, as if in a great hurry to get it done before the first star, granted the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine with the autocephaly, surrounded by the sounds of camera shots and the smartphones-holding political elites of Ukraine,” — the NTV channel reported.

The report then concludeв that “Since the fall of the Soviet Union, not a single post-soviet political leader interfered with the church affairs. Vladimir Putin emphasized this detail a few weeks ago during his press conference, calling the new religious structure in Ukraine a schismatic parish of Istanbul… Ukraine is getting ready for yet another stage of redistribution of the church property, which this time could become bloody.”

Another NTV piece, released on January 7th under the name “A Priest gets sick near Petro Poroshenko,” tells about an incident that happened during the official ceremony.

“This time, one the priests suffered at the ceremony of awarding the so-called autocephaly tomos to the leader of the new schismatic church of Ukraine. The priest almost fainted next to the Ukrainian President. The footage of this incident got into the web. A few people around the priest quickly assisted him, while Poroshenko noticed the incident but didn’t even move a finger. Journalists also caught the Ukrainian President napping and scrolling his smartphone during the ceremony,” — according to the report. In fact, when covering the incident, other TV channels reminded how earlier a soldier had fainted near Poroshenko. It seems that Russian media implied that Poroshenko carried bad luck or evil spirit of some kind.

Russian TV was especially offended by Poroshenko’s claim that after the granting of tomos, “nobody will be able to stop Ukraine and its people, as we have gotten rid of the chains of Moscow church and Moscow empire.” The first one to react was Vladimir Putin who was then cited by every TV channel. NTV’s piece —  aired on January 16th and named “Putin calls the Ukrainian ‘new church’ a political project” —  cited Putin’s commentary: “The new church organization is nothing more than a political, secular project. Its main objective is to divide the people of Russia and Ukraine, spreading not just national, but also religious discord. It’s not surprising that Kyiv already claimed to have reached ‘complete independence from Moscow.’” “It was an attempt to use Istanbul’s power to legalize the existing schismatic communities in Ukraine, which is a blatant violation of Christian Orthodox canons.”

Nikolai Patrushev, a Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, expressed his opinion in an NTV piece called “Patrushev does not exclude the possibility of new Ukrainian provocations directed at Russia.” “In 2019, the possibility of new provocations coming from Ukraine against Russia remains, because this is the only way for Ukraine to remind the international community about itself. These reminders are mostly directed toward the US and EU, the trust of which toward Kyiv is falling dramatically.”

“… the US administration controls directly the authorities in Kyiv and has a tight grip over Poroshenko personally. According to the Secretary of the Security Council, the results of Poroshenko’s Presidential activities gain skepticism even among the Ukrainian experts,” —  the report claimed. That is why there is a need for “constant provocations aiming to intensify the tensions  in the South-East region of the country and to put all the responsibility on Moscow.” Patrushev’s political forecasts also were quoted by all the central TV channels in Russia.

“Poroshenko’s business-tomos: how ‘Peter the Baptist’ is going to pay Constantinople” was the name of REN TV’s piece that aired on January 14th. The story claimed that “tomos was sent to Ukraine, then taken back without any notion, then returned again. What seemed to be a tragedy is turning into a farce.” Further, the journalist claimed that Ukrainians did not really notice the “victory” of their President, as only 3% of Ukrainian talk show viewers thought the autocephaly was a historic event.

“However, for the President, this piece of paper with a calligraphic text on it is the last chance to gain support before the elections, which is why the trip to Istanbul was presented in such a theatrical way. During the ceremony, Poroshenko was seated on a throne in the main cathedral of Constantinople Patriarchate, but the President still seemed bored throughout the processions. He drank a lot and then even fell asleep. At some point, a priest fainted right in front of him, yet it didn’t seem like a surprise to anybody —  the President has a history of soldiers and ombudsmen fainting in front of him. What was truly unexpected for everybody was the sound of a Bandera’s chant, ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!’ inside a 400-years old cathedral,” — the report summed up.

In another January 14th report from REN TV (called “Poroshenko is taking tomos on a tour across Ukraine”), the authors argued that “Poroshenko’s religious ignorance was not an obstacle when the President offered Bartholomew a precious present in exchange for the autocephaly — a church with the remains of Moscow founder. This seems nothing more than a deal with its conditions written in tomos.”

“The so-called tomos is an order by Bartholomew which contains a clause that states that all Ukrainian churches that were built before the 17th century should now be handed over to Constantinople Patriarchate’s power,” —  stated Vladimir Vygylianskiy, the abbot of  Saint Tatiana’s Church.

The blood of both atheists and believers would run cold from the name of another report on REN TV, which says, “The new wound of Ukraine will bleed” (aired on January 19th). However, the TV story itself turned out to be less horrifying than its clickbait name: “Pavel Bondarenko, a blogger who ran away from Luhansk has written a Facebook post where he proposed canonizing Poroshenko for his successful efforts to gain autocephaly. Petro has been seeking such honors for a long time. In his country palace’s church, there is a large fresco depicting the President and his family as saints. It’s clear that Petro saw himself with a nimb over his head long before the current tomos-tour, as he travels Ukraine with the Istanbul piece of paper like a clown. This is not just Shchedrin’s “administrative delight” or Stalin’s “dizziness from success.” No, this is a diagnosis. A psychiatric and a bloody diagnosis.” The author moved on to tell about armed squads occupying churches of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.

 Interestingly, the news about Poroshenko’s supposed nap during the ceremony in the Saint George’s Cathedral first emerged on the Facebook page of Ukrainian former Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov, who fled to Russia after the revolutionary events of 2014. Almost every federal channel in Russia cited Azarov’s post. For example, on January 10th, the “TV-Center” channel issued a story called “The public is shocked by the photo of Poroshenko’s nap inside a church.”

“TV-Center” can surely be nominated for the “Golden Raspberry” award for the number of ridiculous reports from Istanbul. Here are some of the notable names of the channel’s TV stories: “Misfortunes, sins, and the seeds of contention: what awaits for Ukraine after the autocephaly. Ukraine has entered into the times of struggles and godlessness” (5th January, “TV-Center”), “Ukrainians are hysterical about the new name of their church. The SCU is ridiculed on the Internet” (6th January, “TV-Center”), “Call her ‘SCU’: tomos for the “new church” of Ukraine has been published. English version is available” (14th January, “TV-Center”), “US senators suspect Poroshenko is conducting repressions. Ukraine continues to face persecutions against the church” (6th January, “TV-Center”), “Swelled up from drinking: the Internet laughs over Poroshenko’s ‘shootings’” (9th January, “TV-Center”).

However, the unquestionable culmination of Russian propaganda’s absurdity was the “TV-Center” story aired on January 9th under the name “Embarrassment at the church service: Marina Poroshenko’s nipples were breaking free in church.”  “President Petro Poroshenko and his wife Marina Poroshenko’s visit to Istanbul to accept the tomos ended with a bizarre incident. The photographs from the event demonstrate that the Ukrainian first lady’s nipples could be seen through her clothing,” — the report mentions. The story then tells how the social media had a laugh over Marina Poroshenko. “Some of the commentators from the Internet assumed that the photos were edited. However, photos with the same “graphical effects” were also published on the official page of the President on Facebook. Still, the majority of the social media commentators agreed that Marina Poroshenko just picked the wrong dressing for the event” — the story summed up.

Political talk shows turned out to be even funnier than the TV news when covering the topic of Ukrainian tomos. On January 15th, the “Time will tell. Tomos for Ukraine” talk show started with its host Anatoliy Kuzichev announcing: “Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarchate (at least how this organization calls itself) finally published the text of tomos for Ukraine. In short, the document revealed that all the decision will be made in Istanbul and, most importantly, all the financial affairs will also be handled in Istanbul. So here it is, the autocephaly.”

The guests in the studio took turns laughing at the “so-called autocephaly” that was accepted by the “Istanbul parish.” The politicians of Ukraine, according to the talk show speakers, were too poorly educated to understand the nature of the deal, because the most important thing for them was to be “further from Moscow at any cost.” Yanina Sokolovskaya, a correspondent at the “Kommersant” newspaper covering Ukraine, masterfully “defended” Filaret: “Filaret would have never accepted the establishment of a new church. If Epiphanius had the “patriarch” title, Filaret would have gone to war with him. However, metropolitan Epiphanius will soon show his managerial skills and gain more rights for the new church.” After that, the guests had a long discussion about the “fetish of tomos” in Ukraine, claiming at the same time that it is simply Poroshenko’s presidential campaign rhetorics. Later, the studio seemed to have come to a consensus that tomos is “just an archival paper.” Suddenly, Sokolovskaya interrupted the debate by claiming that “Thanks to this ‘paper’ Poroshenko has now gained the level of recognition similar to that of Emperor Constantine, who had gathered the Christian councils.” Of course, these statements were met with laughter and jokes about the “Emperor Peter-Constantine Poroshenko.”

The host seemed to pretend that he did not remember the name of the new church and began to mock it: SCU, OEC, or EOC, wondering “how could they have such a bad taste in aesthetics if they couldn’t even think through how the abbreviation of the new church would sound like?” “They were in too much of a hurry to think. They just put the tomos in Saint Sophia’s Cathedral and the people now don’t even know what exactly they should do with it — touch, kneel, or put flowers to it! What a barbaric and ridiculous circus!” The mockery was interrupted by Ukrainian “political scientist” Vyacheslav Kovtun: “What about the times when monasteries were exploded and barges full of priests were drowned? Wasn’t that a circus? You’re just a redressed NKVD… The most important thing is, the rule of KGB hordes has been overthrown…” However, as always, Kovtun wasn’t able to finish his thought. “Poroshenko walked onto the pulpit and started to shake censer and tomos in his hands, calling that the centuries of dependency were over. Then he started to read tomos and, what the hell, you are even less free now, you cannot make any decisions without Istanbul from now on” — Kuzichev summed up his view.

An unexpected thought sounded from a Russian political scientist Alexander Sytin, who invited everybody to congratulate Ukrainians upon receiving tomos because it may soon turn out that all the ROC’s decisions have not been legal. “The Vladimir-Moscow church also started with metropolia in the Medieval times, but then the Constantinople representatives came and gave it tomos. If you read Karamzin, you will clearly see that this decision was made through the use of force” — Sytin stated. However, the show’s host once again showed why he is being paid and did not let Sytin, who holds a Ph.D. in history, finish his thought.

Vasiliy Volga, often guest at this talk show and a leader of Ukrainian Union of the left forces, saw the events around tomos as a Western special forces operation: “We are dealing with a highly successful special operation, which should be analyzed in the framework of a civilizations’ clash. It was not a religious procedure and it had no relation to Jesus Christ or the saving of the souls. It was a pure tragedy, as the anathematized Satan-serving churches managed to stay alive and unite. They aim to create a deeply anti-Russian society and act within the anti-Christian paradigm.”

Vladimir Kornilov, another political scientist, continued the line of mocking by arguing that “Poroshenko is now Emperor Constantine — this is why this all was planned in the first place. They already have a self-proclaimed patriarch Filaret and now they’ll also have Emperor Constantine-Peter Alekseyevich. I was in Istanbul the other day and searched for Constantinople there. Nobody knows where it is… A nonexistent church receives some paper from a nonexistent city just to create a schism in the Christian Orthodox world. That city fell, it doesn’t exist anymore. Or maybe we should refer to it as Tsargrad? And Poroshenko is now calling everybody to look at each other’s tomos! But when was tomos ‘invented’? It appeared only in the 19th century. The Antioch, Georgian, Alexandrian churches all don’t have a tomos. Why are you asking the ROC to show its tomos?” These statements were followed by the discussion of various tomoses that were handed by the ROC (to the Japanese Orthodox church in particular). However, the notion that the ROC-issued tomoses were never recognized by Constantinople did not take off in this discussion. The “experts” concluded that “Ukraine needed a reference from Bartholomew to show their church was real, which is a vulgar thing to do!”

When Vyacheslav Kovtun asked what was it that prevented the ROC from giving tomos to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and possibly avoiding the current situation, the host asked a counterquestion: “Vyacheslav, are you in the lace panties right now?” “No, I’m in boxers” — answered Vyacheslav, as it became clear that his questions will no longer be met seriously. “One of Maidan’s slogans was that people wanted in the EU wearing lace panties. But those people were tricked and vulgarly used. I fear that tomos will have a similar outcome” — Kuzichev stated, adding that Kovtun should be more careful, as he is on the Ukrainian site “Myrotvorets” list, which makes him a traitor for Ukrainians.

After closing his statement with a phrase, “in any unclear situation — kiss the tomos, Poroshenko tells us,” Kuzichev left the studio and the show was then hosted by Artem Sheynin. “Poroshenko is a cynical politician, and the consequences of this religious polity do not worry him. Do you think Yeltsin in 1991 was worried about Ukraine? He was only concerned with the overthrow of Gorbachev. Just like that, Poroshenko doesn’t seem to be concerned, and the consequences of this tomos will be the responsibility of millions of ordinary people, even those who are not believers” — Sheynin opened his part of the show.

Sheynin’s monologue was followed by footage from Lviv made on January 14th, which depicted “moron radicals” writing calls to get back to Moscow on the walls of a church. “Those people who forcefully take more churches in Zhytomyr or Volyn do not think about God. These incidents go by the same scenario, as radicals are being supported by the local authorities.” “Look at those mugs! Are these people believers? No, this is the same brigade that travels across the districts. They are not the locals; nobody had ever seen them there before!” “They are Nazis from C14. This man is Karas, a bald shiny mug close to the General Attorney. And he is not standing in the line for a new smartphone – he is in a church!” “The important thing is, they don’t even feel any embarrassment or fear.”

However, the studio’s guests were outraged the most by Dmitry Yarosh’s quote, which called to “wipe off this scum that walks over Ukraine and works for Putin…” Someone started to shout that Ukrainians picked the wrong country to live in if they think there’s half of Ukraine working for Kremlin… Sheynin then had a long annoyed monologue that Poroshenko stood at a spot in a church where politicians were not supposed to stand: “He has become just a salesman. He sales tomos to the people, he sells the future where Karas, Yarosh, and other morons will make the key decisions, and Poroshenko will be the Emperor! Christ would have kicked them out of the church.”

“The West will be giving Poroshenko authorization to rule;” “He is already riding across the country with the election campaign promises;” “The local authorities have lists of people whom they send to Poroshenko’s Tomos-tour rallies;” “Poroshenko is traveling with gang leaders;” “He talks more about ‘Javelin’s than tomos at his own rallies;” “Poroshenko went with bandits from Dnipropetrovsk even to Istanbul;” “Those bandits will decide the election results, they will count the votes, and now they’re just practicing their skills in churches;” “Even their Parliament speaker, Oksana Syroyid, mentioned that tomos had become a decoration of Poroshenko’s presidential campaign,” — those were the main points of the rest of the show.

In conclusion of the show, Sheynin traditionally made an address to Ukrainians, who “I know for sure are watching the show.” “Guys, the choice is yours. Do you want them to make goulash out of you? Think who you’ll be voting for! They have already cut apart our united Slavic civilization. They’re going to cut you apart next.”

On January 17th, Anatoliy Kuzichev began the “Time Will Tell. Ukraine: the church and the authorities” talk show by saying that the Presidential race is peaking in Ukraine and that Poroshenko seems to lose to everybody, even to a comedian Zelenskiy. After that, the audience was shown a supposed January 16th footage of some people forcefully capturing a church in Olenivka village in Chernihiv district. According to the host, the recent law issued by Verkhovna Rada allows people to take away the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) without any consequences. As a result, Nazis walk into the churches and vote for it to go under the OCU’s jurisdiction.

Kuzichev explained that, when they did not succeed in tricking the priests into conversion, they decided to use force. Ukrainian political scientist Sergey Zaporozhskiy questioned: “How can you convert an FSB agent? He’s going to get in prison for treason.” However, the studio turned the “FSB-priests” discussion into a farce and quickly moved on to discuss how even tomos is not going to rescue Poroshenko’s electoral support ratings.

Michail Deliagin, another political scientist in the studio, made a “rational” assumption. According to Deliagin, if Poroshenko promised the receiving of tomos for the April 1st, he would have more chances to become re-elected. However, this thought was quickly denounced by the rest of the guests, who claimed that the Ukrainian mentality is different to Russian. Therefore, Ukrainians need to see the accomplishments before the elections, not after. The guests then remembered that Poroshenko had been brought to power by “Nazis,” many of whom are also believers, although not Orthodox Christians but Catholics or Greek Catholics, which means they “don’t give a damn” about tomos.

Then followed a long discussion about the understanding of the “Ukrainian soul.” At some point, Poroshenko’s quote was analyzed, as he said that “Peace in Donbass does not depend on Ukrainian politicians.” The guests didn’t understand why Poroshenko couldn’t simply promise peace in Donbass. Through collective effort the guests managed to conclude that this way “Equal to Apostle Peter” sends signals to the West, implying that if the West lets him down, his successor will feed Ukraine to Russia. Any attempts of the Ukrainian experts to suggest that peace could only be achieved if Putin takes the Russian military forces away from Donbass were instantly rejected.

In short, it seemed that Russian propagandists realized that the autocephaly had already happened and it was now too hard to question its existence. As a result, they decided to simply start calling for Ukrainians not to vote for Poroshenko.

By  Olena Sheremeta, for Detector media

Olena Sheremeta is a political observer.