In July 2023, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held the first telephone conversation in the history of bilateral relations with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali. This is not the first step of the Kyiv regime to ingratiate itself with the African country. In May, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba made his first-ever visit to Addis Ababa to promote Zelensky’s “peace formula.”
Undoubtedly, Ethiopia, as one of the oldest African Christian civilizations, is a strong and sovereign state. As any country, it has the full right to build diplomatic relations with anybody it wants and in any way it wants. The problem is that we can hardly consider Ukraine to be a sovereign state. Its entire economy is supported by funding from the budget of the EU and the United States, where on the website of the U.S. Federal Treasury you can still find a section on sanctions against Ethiopia.
The Christian values have been very important for Ethiopia throughout its whole history. Even the leader of the socialist regime, the army officer Mengistu Haile Mariam, did not conduct an open struggle against Christianity, limiting the scope of anti-religious campaign.
At the same time, Ukraine, which is so eager to build bridges with Ethiopia and other African countries, has been carrying out tough and openly repressive policy towards the Christian Church.
This complicated story started with the split of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) after Ukraine became a separate state with the crash of the USSR in 1991. At that time, UOC was formally a part of the Russia-based Moscow Patriarchate. In the 1990s, Metropolitan Filaret of Kyiv, without any sanction, formed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. His actions caused protests from both Moscow and Constantinople. But this was favored by the Ukrainian nationalistic authorities who sought aggressive nation-building in all forms, including religion. Thus, the schismatic church became a political weapon in the hands of the country’s politicians. Nevertheless, despite all the efforts of the nationalists, the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) remained a small sect, while most of the Ukrainians traditionally went to the canonical churches of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP).
The fragile peace was broken with the US-backed 2014 Maidan coup. Armed seizures of churches of the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine became a routine practice. In 2016, the UOC-MP reported that in two recent years, they had lost about 40 churches which forcedly came under the control of schismatics from UOC-KP. The Christianity in Ukraine began to be subjected to open violence.
Meanwhile, the Kyiv regime ultimately supported UOC-KP, its own ‘puppet church’, unrecognized by the world Orthodoxy. In spring 2017, the Ukrainian parliament adopted two bills that could essentially legalize the seizure of (canonical UOC-MP) churches and the repressive policy towards the UOC-MP. Under public pressure, the bills were not accepted, but the Pandora Box was opened.
In December 2018, as a result of the forced artificial unification of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church — another ‘puppet Church’ of Kyiv — the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was established.
And then the so-called ‘split on Christmas Eve’ occurred. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I gave an official decree to the new Kyiv-established religious entity, granting it the right to ‘self-rule.’ He described it as ‘‘the sacred gift of emancipation, independence and self-governance’’.
In fact, from the point of view of canon law, interference in the affairs of another patriarchate is illegal. Not only the Russian Orthodox Church, but also the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch also condemned this decision.
In 2022, after Russia began to hit the NATO forces in Ukraine, the pressure on the UOC-MP increased — despite the fact that it publicly condemned Russia’s actions and also declared independence from the maternal Russian Orthodox Church. However, the goal of the Ukrainian authorities was the complete destruction of the UOC. Therefore, in January 2023, the Government of Ukraine introduced a law to the parliament aimed at its complete ban. Just imagine: in the XXI century, under the glances of all humanity — including the ‘Free World’ as the US calls its allies — the practice of the worst anti-Christian totalitarian regimes was resumed.
This was preceded by dramatic events in the Holy Dormition Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. It is one of the main Orthodox shrines and one of the oldest monasteries in Ancient Russia.
In November 2022, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted ‘counterintelligence activities’ in the monastery. “These measures are being taken to prevent the Lavra from being used as a cell of the Russian World,” the SBU press service said. The same barbaric searches were conducted in the Rivne region, on the territory of the Koretsky Holy Trinity Monastery, another UOC-MP pearl.
Since that time, Orthodox shrines, and especially the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, have become the object of constant attacks by the Ukrainian special services and police. In fact, a real war was declared on all monasteries and churches of the UOC-MP.
Mykhailo Podolyak, Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said that it was necessary to physically clean up the UOC, as well as everything pro-Russian. Isn`t it an apology for open repression against Orthodoxy under the pretext of ‘fighting against Russia’?
Repressions began against the clergy themselves. The rector of the Lavra, Metropolitan Pavel, was forcibly arrested under ridiculous allegations and taken away for interrogation. Soon the court put him under house arrest.
At the beginning of March 2023, the previous lease agreement between the Ukrainian authorities with the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra — upon which the monks set there — was illegally dissolved. All monks were ordered to either leave the monastery or come under the control of the OCU. Such conditions once again present that the anti-religious struggle was launched because of the nationalistic interests of the Ukrainian authorities. This decision alarmed ordinary people who began to come to defend the Lavra.
The real drama unfolded in August. The SBU and the National Guard laid siege to the monastery, forcing the monks to hide in their buildings. Entry to the territory of the Lavra was prohibited. A few days later the assault began.
Unfortunately, in reality, no one could stop the barbaric anti-Christian policies of the Kyiv regime. The UN only published a report on discrimination against the canonical UOC, pointing to human rights violations during raids, searches, and interrogations.
The last act of drama was staged in October 2023 when the Ukrainian parliament has approved the above-mentioned law prohibiting the canonical UOC. Even the Communist regimes did not ban religion de jure (by the USSR 1936 Constitution, the ‘freedom of individual’s religion’ was proclaimed).
In conclusion, I’d say that it`s just Russia’s friendly duty to show you the awful picture of the oppression of Christianity by the Ukrainian government. Befriend Ukraine or not, certainly, will be the sovereign choice of Ethiopia and other African states.
About the author. Maxim Bazanov is a Graduate of the Faculty of History of Moscow State University, an author of a number of scientific articles.