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Sanctions Limit Russia’s Participation in Orthodox Christian Assembly

Sergei Gavrilov
Sergei Gavrilov and Russia’s delegation were reportedly prevented from participating in a General Assembly of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. Credit: / CC BY 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

The war in Ukraine and the political fallout ensuing from it has limited Russia’s participation in the Interparliamentary Assemble of Orthodoxy (IAO).

Over the weekend, a delegation from Russia, as well as the Belarusian and Syrian delegations, were barred from participating in the General Assembly of the IAO due to the imposition of sanctions.

The General Assembly was held between June 29 and July 2 in Halkidiki, northern Greece. Member of the Polish Parlament Yevgeny Chikvin was subsequently elected president of the IAO.

Russian influence wanes in the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy

“Delegations from Russia, Belarus, and Syria were not allowed to the last meeting of the General Assembly of the IAO, which was prepared by the Greek side under pressure from Ukraine, supported by American diplomats and loyal media,” a source told the Union of Orthodox Journalists.

“During the General Assembly, a deputy of the Polish parliament Yevgeny Chikvin was elected to the post of president of the IAO,” the source continued.

The decision to elect a Polish rather than Russian president at the IAO gathering in Halkidiki was significant because it marked the end of a three-decade-long Russian hold over the presidency.

Sergei Gavrilov, a Deputy of the State Duma representing the Russian Communist Party, was previously elected president of the IAO in 2020. He was initially supposed to attend the General Assembly over the weekend but was unable to do so because he has been placed under sanctions by 27 EU countries.

With a significant portion of the IAO being EU member states, it became a diplomatic impossibility for Gavrilov to attend. In the leadup to the IAO’s General Assembly, the Ukrainian government had put pressure on the interparliamentary organization to block Russian participation.

Orthodoxy and the War in Ukraine

The Orthodox Christian faith has not been spared the intrigues and controversies stemming from the Ukraine War.

In May last year, Ukraine’s recently formed Orthodox Church declared complete independence from the Russian Church.

In a meeting that took place on May 27, 2022, in Kyiv, the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “considered issues of church life that arose as a result of the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”

The council subsequently decided to adopt “appropriate amendments to the Statute on the Administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which testify to the full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

“We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the war in Ukraine,” a statement issued by the Ukrainian Church said.

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