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CONFIDENTIAL (97070)
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN (4678)
SECRET (11322)
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UNCLASSIFIED (75792)
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY (58095)
Reference ID 09MOSCOW2068 (original text)
SubjectPATRIARCH KIRILL'S UKRAINE TRIP: DOMESTIC AND
OriginEmbassy Moscow
ClassificationCONFIDENTIAL
ReleasedAug 30, 2011 01:44
CreatedAug 13, 2009 09:05
VZCZCXRO1562
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #2068/01 2250905
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 130905Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4513
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002068 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/13/2019 
TAGS:              
SUBJECT: PATRIARCH KIRILL'S UKRAINE TRIP: DOMESTIC AND 
FOREIGN POLITICAL GOALS 
 
Classified By: CDA Eric Rubin; reasons 1.4(b/d). 
 
 1. (C) Summary: In light of the escalating diplomatic 
tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, the objectives of Russian 
Orthodox Church (ROC) Patriarch Kirill's July 27-August 5 
visit to Ukraine are receiving renewed scrutiny, with an 
emphasis on his engagement with President Yushchenko and his 
amended itinerary to Western Ukraine. Though 
government-affiliated and more independent Russian media 
generally hailed the visit as a success for the Church, the 
ROC has been at pains to spin the visit as non-political, an 
assessment not surprisingly shared by the MFA. Church 
officials told us privately, however, that Kirill's messages 
of readiness to work with whomever Ukrainians choose as their 
leaders, support for Ukrainian independence and his pre-trip 
comments on Nazism/fascism and Stalinism/communism were 
addressed to audiences both in Ukraine and Russia itself, to 
whom he is attempting to demonstrate that he and the ROC 
operate independently of the Kremlin.  End Summary. 
 
 2. (SBU) ROC Patriarch Kirill visited Ukraine July 27-August 
5, his first trip there since his elevation earlier this 
year.  Kirill's visit received considerable media attention 
in Russia, in particular his visits to Sevastopol, his 
meetings with government and opposition political figures in 
Kyiv, including President Yushchenko and opposition leader 
Viktor Yanukovych, as well as the change in his itinerary by 
GOU authorities concerned for his safety which prevented him 
from visiting some cities in western Ukraine.  Extensive 
coverage of Kirill's 90-minute question and answer session, 
carried live on Ukrainian national television, was repeated 
in Russia.  Kirill benefited from an otherwise slow Russian 
news cycle during his travels.  His speeches and meetings 
were featured on state-run evening television news programs, 
and also garnered substantial positive coverage from print 
media. 
 
 3. (SBU) At Kirill's request, upon his return to Russia he 
met President Medvedev to brief him on the trip, emphasizing 
his call that Russia and Ukraine focus on their commonality 
and strengthening of relations, not on areas of disagreement. 
 Senior Church officials took the extraordinary step of 
holding a press conference August 6 to spin the trip. 
Chairman of the External Relations Department Archbishop 
Hilarion painted the visit in a very positive light, 
stressing the outpourings of affection toward Kirill, while 
acknowledging some opposition to his call for Orthodox unity 
(under the ROC's leadership) with respect for some Ukrainian 
local governance.  He downplayed reports of inter- and 
intra-Church disagreement during the visit, and of any 
tensions during Kirill's meeting with Yushchenko.  Archpriest 
Chaplin, former head of the ROC's External Relations 
Department, underlined the significance of Kirill's public 
and private messages related to Ukraine's aspirations for 
membership in the European community. 
 
Political Issues for Ukrainian - and Russian - Audiences 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
 4. (C) Deputy Head of External Relations for the ROC, Father 
Filip Ryabykh, who accompanied Kirill on the trip, told us 
August 6 that Kirill was pleased at having achieved not only 
his religious, but his principal political objectives. 
Foremost among these was his desire to demonstrate that the 
ROC - and Kirill himself - operate independently of Kremlin 
direction.  While this issue is currently being debated among 
foreign observers, especially in light of the upswing in 
diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, Filip told us 
that Kirill was cognizant that his words would be scrutinized 
in Ukraine, and therefore wanted to deliver a strong message 
of support for Ukraine's sovereignty and statehood, and for 
future cooperation with whomever voters selected as their 
leaders. Filip said Kirill was adamant that this message be 
publicized in Russia as well, to demonstrate to the Kremlin, 
as well as to ROC critics, that the ROC would speak out for 
what it determines is in its interests, not the Kremlin's. 
Significantly, Kirill visited the Kyiv memorial to the 
victims of the 1930's era famine (a site studiously avoided 
by Medvedev and other GOR officials) - noting the "holodomor" 
was a product of Soviet oppression. 
 
 5. (C) In this regard, Father Filip elaborated on the 
contentious debate in and outside Russia surrounding Nazism 
and Stalinism.  While Hilarion's declaration just before the 
trip that both concepts were manifestations of evil and 
Kirill's "clarification" - that Nazism is based on pure 
hatred, and Stalinism on repression - may have been ignored 
by many, Filip related that they were both very much part of 
 
MOSCOW 00002068  002 OF 002 
 
 
Kirill's pre-Ukraine trip attempts to deal with a topic that 
has political ramifications both in Ukraine and Russia. 
Filip suggested Kirill wanted to be clear that both forms of 
totalitarianism were and are unacceptable, that both did 
great harm to Russian and Ukrainian peoples and to the 
Church, but that revisiting painful historical periods 
diverted followers from the work of the present: 
reconciliation and the building of deeper, peaceful future 
cooperation.  Aware that Kirill was touching on a sensitive 
issue for Russians as well as Ukrainians, Filip commented, 
the Patriarch spoke out of conviction without concern for its 
domestic - or foreign - political consequences for him. 
Filip acknowledged that some in Ukraine might perceive the 
remarks as directed solely to them, but reiterated that the 
message was meant for Russians, too. 
 
 6. (C) Filip pointed out that, in Kirill's conversation with 
Medvedev, there had been no discussion of specific messages 
that could be taken either in Kyiv or Moscow to improve 
Ukrainian-Russian relations.  Rather, Kirill repeated his 
message that the Church would work with whomever is in power, 
and that he intended to make more frequent, and likely 
shorter, trips to Ukraine in order to promote Orthodox unity 
and cooperation. 
 
MFA: Kirill's Visit "Not Political" 
----------------------------------- 
 
 7. (C) MFA Second CIS Department Deputy Director Yuriy 
Mordvintsev reiterated August 12 that Kirill's visit to 
Ukraine was of "pastoral, not political nature."  Describing 
Ukraine as a "complicated" part of the ROC's area of 
authority, due to the presence of significant Roman Catholic, 
Greek Catholic and ethnic Russian populations, he 
characterized the Orthodox faith as one of the factors 
unifying the Ukrainian and Russian peoples.  He dismissed 
Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) leader Filaret 
as a "schismatic," and rejected what he called Yushchenko's 
attempts to politicize Kirill's refusal to deal with Filaret. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
 8. (C) Medvedev's harsh August 11 message to Ukrainian 
leaders (septel), delivered just a week after Kirill's 
return, in which he cited the visit and said he agreed with 
Kirill's assessments (not detailed) of Ukraine, has put ROC 
officials in an awkward position. While acknowledging the 
strong religious and cultural ties between Russians and 
Ukrainians, Kirill was careful not to offend Ukrainian 
sensibilities - even at one point offering to take on 
Ukrainian citizenship if that would help heal the rift 
between the Churches.  Kirill's offer of eventual autocephaly 
of a united Ukrainian Orthodox Church was made with the 
understanding it would be under Moscow's terms - not 
Filaret's.  ROC officials' positive spin on Kirill's visit 
notwithstanding, the fact that relations with Ukraine have 
now deteriorated even further has complicated the ROC's 
ambitious, and almost certainly unrealistic, goals of 
longer-term religious cooperation under the Moscow 
Patriarch's leadership. The trust and confidence needed for 
that cooperation may have also been damaged by Medvedev's 
latest salvo.  However determined Kirill may be to 
demonstrate that he is his own man, the ROC has always 
followed the GOR's lead in foreign policy, and can be 
expected to do so in regard to Ukraine as well. 
RUBIN
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