The Kyivan Patriarchate, part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, strongly favors European integration and is offering support, even refuge, to protesters.
Kiev Protesters See Potent Ally Under a Spire
By Saturday afternoon, more than 10,000 protesters had gathered in the square outside the monastery. Volunteers brought food and clothing and tossed cash into plastic bags put out by organizers. It was an unexpected precursor to the huge march and rally by hundreds of thousands of people on Sunday in which demonstrators seized control of Independence Square and several public buildings.
“The church was always with the people,” said Yulia Solntsova, 28, a psychologist who spent Tuesday night at the monastery.
In the interview on Tuesday at his downtown headquarters, one subway stop from Independence Square, Filaret said the protesters, and people throughout Ukraine, had reason to feel betrayed by Mr. Yanukovich.
The president, Filaret said, had promised for more than a year that he would sign the accords, only to reverse course last month under heavy pressure from the Kremlin. “People really believed the president and believed in the government,” he said.
Filaret added that he recognized the challenges organized religion has faced in Europe, but that the promise of freedom and independence for Ukraine was more important. “We are under no illusions about Europe,” he said. “Europe has its disadvantages. But it doesn’t mean that Europe stopped being Christian.”
There are no illusions about Russia’s effort to keep a grip on Ukraine, either, Filaret said, adding that the tug of war between Europe and Russia created the risk of a new Cold War.
“If Ukraine enters the European Union,” he said, “then a big democratic force is created in the world, which means Europe and the United States of America. This is a big democratic force based on freedom, technological progress and peace. And this force can influence the whole world.”
Russia’s effort to derail the accords with Europe has been viewed by many here as an attempt to keep Ukraine stuck in Moscow’s orbit and to prevent improvements in public services, including the rule of law, and a general increase in quality of life.
Older Ukrainians have bad memories of Soviet times, and so has the Orthodox Church here.
In the 1930s, for instance, Soviet officials demolished St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, which was originally built in the 1100s and destroyed and rebuilt several times over the ensuing centuries. The complex was most recently rebuilt, modeled on an earlier design, in the 1990s.
Filaret said he believed that Russia was seeking to maintain geopolitical leverage. “Without Ukraine, Russia does not have such big influence,” he said.
The patriarch also had some advice, perhaps wishful. “My opinion, personal, about how we should exit from this situation: First, Ukraine’s entry into the European Union. Second: resignation of the government. If those conditions will be met, people will be happy with that.”