Sunday, September 07, 2014

Evidence Grows of Russian Orthodox Clergy’s Aiding Ukraine Rebels

Lining a road leading to a Russian Orthodox church in Slovyansk, Ukraine, are the graves of pro-Russian fighters who died fighting Ukrainian government troops. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
By ANDREW HIGGINS, NYT
SEPT. 6, 2014

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — On an overcast day in April, staff members at the municipal museum in this eastern Ukrainian town noticed strange goings-on next door at a cultural center run by the Ukrainian arm of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Groups of burly men nobody recognized entered the building, known as Villa Maria, carrying big canvas bags and wooden boxes. “We didn’t know who they were or what they were doing,” recalled Valery Stupko, a museum employee.

The next morning, he said, heavily armed masked men emerged from the same church cultural center and made their way on foot through back alleys to Slovyansk’s main police station. Within minutes, they had seized the police station and helped ignite what became a brush fire of assaults by pro-Russian rebels on Ukrainian security and government buildings across the east of the country.

The Russian Orthodox Church, like the Kremlin, has strenuously denied any role in stirring up or aiding separatist turmoil in Ukraine. But as Slovyansk and other towns seized by pro-Russian rebels have fallen over the summer to a since-stalled Ukrainian government offensive in the east, evidence has begun to accumulate of close ties between the church, or at least individual Orthodox priests, and the pro-Russian cause.

(More here.)

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