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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ukrainian nationalists indignant at Moscow patriarch blessing president-elect

23 February 2010

Ukrainian nationalist and rightist forces have expressed indignation at Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill's visit to Kiev in order to attend the inauguration of president-elect Viktor Yanukovych on 25 February.

The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN at 1437 gmt on 22 February reported that the UNA-UNSD (Ukrainian National Assembly - Ukrainian National Self-Defence) nationalist organization planned to stage a protest against Patriarch Kirill's visit on 25 February. "UNA-UNSD expresses a decisive protest against Kirill's announced intention to bless Yanukovych's inauguration... If Kirill comes to Kiev, we want to deliver our feelings to him personally... We are going to hold a vigil. We want the whole world to see that it is not Russia's province," the head of the UNA-UNSD executive committee, Ruslan Zaychenko, said.

The Interfax-Ukraine news agency at 1612 gmt on 22 February quoted the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN) as protesting against Patriarch Kirill's participation in a church prayer before Yanukovych's inauguration. "We believe that the fact of inviting the Patriarch of the neighbouring state's church to bless the newly-elected Ukrainian president shows Yanukovych's colonial dependence on Moscow," the congress said in a statement.

Leaders of Ukrainian churches were not invited to take part in the prayer, CUN said. "The Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists sees the actions of the newly-elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, as posing a threat to the sovereignty of the Ukrainian state and leading to a split of the Ukrainian nation," the congress said.

At 0930 gmt on 23 February, UNIAN quoted the centre-right People's Movement of Ukraine (Rukh) as saying that inviting Patriarch Kirill to the inauguration shows that Yanukovych is unwilling to unite Ukrainian society and state.

Rukh said that Yanukovych "showed his vision of Ukraine as a periphery. We see his unwillingness to unite Ukrainian society and state behind this step. Most Ukrainians are sincere believers who support the existence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with its centre in Kiev, not in Moscow. Moreover, a large part of Ukrainians are the parish of Greek Catholic and other Christian churches which have nothing in common with Moscow and have been showing understanding and tolerance during all years of Ukraine's independence. Therefore, by doing this Yanukovych will sow discord among Ukrainians and show them that he will never become the president of all Ukraine."

The Ukrayina Moloda newspaper quoted the For Ukraine party loyal to outgoing President Viktor Yushchenko as saying that "President Viktor Yanukovych's assumption of office should not be blessed by a foreign hierarch".

Yanukovych "should have seen himself as the president of all Ukraine. A president of all Ukraine should be blessed by the leaders of Ukrainian churches," the party said in a statement. Otherwise, "from the very first moment of his presidency, the head of state will demonstrate his dependence and provoke confrontation in society", the party said.

Sources: UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 1437 gmt 22 Feb 10; Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Kiev, in Russian 1612 gmt 22 Feb 10; UNIAN news agency, Kiev, in Ukrainian 0930 gmt 23 Feb 10; Ukrayina Moloda, Kiev, in Ukrainian 23 Jan 10; p 4

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