Spilnota Detector Media

Petro Burkovskiy


Anastasiya Polishchuk


Українською читайте тут.

Read the review for the first half of March here.

The most prominent event in the early second half of March was Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow. According to data from Semantrum, major Russian media mentioned this topic 5,200 times. The story’s popularity was bolstered by the presence of Vladimir Putin and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin alongside Xi.

There are several key factors to consider when analyzing the Russian media’s coverage.

Firstly, Xi Jinping’s visit from March 20-22 marked the first foreign leader’s visit to Vladimir Putin since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him on suspicion of organizing the illegal forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

The Russian government and its controlled media could not ignore this topic. However, the Chinese leader’s arrival enabled a complete shift in the domestic information agenda in favor of Putin.

It’s fair to say that the Kremlin utilized Xi Jinping to the fullest extent to whitewash its war crimes. This raises the question of whether the Chinese grasped the true value of this visit to Putin.

The Russian media portrayed the meeting as follows:

·       Putin's statement before the visit claimed that "the meeting on March 20 was designed to discuss all matters of interest in an informal, friendly atmosphere" (RIA Novosti, March 20). It was also highlighted that topics of economic cooperation would be addressed and that "one way or another [Putin and Xi Jinping] would discuss the conflict in Ukraine and the Chinese plan for a peaceful settlement" (Lenta.ru, March 20).

·       Significant media attention was devoted to Xi Jinping's response to the Kremlin's honors. "In turn, Mr. Xi expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Putin for the warm reception" (Kommersant.ru, March 21) and observed that bilateral relations are "vital for the modern world order" (TASS, March 21).

·       There were also numerous references to Prime Minister Mishustin: "Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is confident that he will be able to establish a constructive, friendly dialogue with the new Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Li Qiang" (TASS, March 21). The prime minister stated that "Russia is sincerely interested in strengthening a comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation with China" (RIA Novosti, March 21).

Pleasantries were exchanged as well. According to NTV, Putin “proposed a toast ‘to the health of our friend, President of the People’s Republic of China Mr. Xi Jinping, to the health of all members of the Chinese delegation, to the deepening of the Russian-Chinese comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation, to the prosperity and well-being of the peoples of Russia and China’” (21 March).

The Chinese side spoke similarly of friendship and cooperation: “I propose a toast to the further development of Sino-Russian relations, strategic partnership, and cooperation in a new era. To prosperity, development, and happiness of our peoples. To friendship between our peoples from generation to generation. To the health of President Putin and all those present. Let’s drink to the bottom”. (Channel One, March 21).

In general, the newspapers featured concise headlines that depicted a warm and long-awaited “meeting of two old friends”.

·       "Vladimir Putin Recognized Xi Jinping as Both a Brother and a Dear Friend" (Vedomosti, March 20);

·       "Putin and Xi Jinping Exchange Toasts" (NTV, March 21);

·       "Chinese Foreign Minister Calls Russia and China 'Forces of Good' in the World" (Gazeta.ru, March 21);

·       "Relations between Moscow and Beijing an Example of 'Friendship Between Gentlemen'" (RosBusinessConsulting, March 24).

Secondly, amidst Russia’s failed offensive in the Donbas and the ongoing assaults on Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Maryinka, and Vuhledar, the Chinese provided Putin with an excellent chance to appear as a “peacemaker”. 

As you may know, on the anniversary of the full-scale invasion, Beijing introduced a 12-point Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis, which includes a cessation of hostilities, “stopping unilateral sanctions” (referring to economic restrictions against the Russian government), and abandoning the Cold War mentality.

It’s important to note that the Chinese proposal essentially excludes Ukraine’s agency and outlines a negotiation process without its involvement. This aligns perfectly with the Kremlin’s interests. Consequently, the apparent agreement to “discuss” and “consider” the Chinese “peace plan” offered Moscow another opportunity to masquerade its aggressive war as “ensuring peace”.

It’s no surprise that Russian media has shown considerable respect for China’s “proposals” for Ukraine. During his talks with Xi, Putin mentioned that he had thoroughly examined Beijing’s plan, noting that it could be discussed and that Russia was always open to negotiations:

·       "The two leaders addressed the Ukrainian issue at an informal meeting on Monday. Putin stated that Russia is always open to negotiations and respects the Chinese plan for Ukraine" (RIA Novosti, March 20);

·       "What we can confidently say is that <...> China will continue to maintain its position of promoting peace talks and not joining the warring factions" (RIA Novosti, March 20);

·       "Many of the points align with Russia's demands and could form the foundation of a future peace plan" (RosBusinessConsulting, March 24).

Third, the Chinese leader’s visit presented Russian media with an ideal opportunity to disseminate messages regarding Russia’s exceptional importance and role in the international arena. They argued that the war against Ukraine is merely an “episode” in the global confrontation with the West, in which China naturally sides with Russia:

·       "Xi Jinping also noted that Russia was chosen as the first country of the visit, as it is in line with historical logic. He emphasized that Russia and China are the largest powers and strategic partners" (TASS, March 21);

·       "Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow showed that Russia and China are equally interested in building a new world order" (TASS, March 23);

·       "The joint statement of understanding following the visit states that Russia and China intend to provide mutual support in protecting each other's fundamental interests, primarily sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security. As both leaders acknowledged, relations between the two countries are currently at a high level of development. This is, of course, due to historical factors, proximity, and common interests. But it is clear that such a rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing would not have been possible without the personal friendship between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Leaving the Kremlin, the Chinese president noted that this was only the beginning. The world is on the verge of great changes" (NTV, March 22);

·       "Western leaders were rushing to China after the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that took place recently in Moscow. The American policy of isolating China has failed. China became the main destination for diplomatic "tourism" after Xi Jinping met with Putin. The parties agreed to cooperate and discussed Ukraine" (Tsargrad TV, March 24);

·       "According to Zakharova, Western countries were 'frothing at the mouth' listening to the opening remarks of Putin and Xi Jinping. "There was envy, anger, and banal jealousy", she explained, emphasizing that the West had missed the main point" (Lenta.ru, March 20);

·       "For Russia, which has found itself increasingly isolated by the 'collective West,' the visit of the Chinese leader is a confirmation of our official stance that 'this isolation is limited in nature'" (Argumenty I Fakty, March 21).

Russian media also focused on the United States, particularly Joe Biden, as Russia’s “main enemy”:

·       "Chinese President Xi Jinping's words to Russian President Vladimir Putin are the worst moment in American history" (Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 23);

·       "China shows no interest in organizing a phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden" (RIA Novosti, March 24);

·       "The visit of [Xi] Jinping shows that the Anglo-Saxons have actually lost the economic war and are losing the ideological war" (TASS, March 23).

In their news reports, Russian media highlighted the equal partnership between Russia and China and the absence of any dependence of Moscow on its neighbor. The primary “argument” for this was “equal economic cooperation”, which was illustrated by citing figures related to the volume of Russian natural gas and oil supplies to China.

March’s Top Personalities


Vladimir Putin continues to be the most mentioned leader in the Russian media throughout March and previous months of 2023, with Semantrum registering 8,821 references. 

Let’s explore the main topics featuring the Kremlin leader:

·       Arrest Warrant

On March 17, the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin sparked a wave of indignation in Kremlin-aligned media. From Russia’s perspective, the case is “fabricated” and marred by serious procedural violations (Argumenty Nedeli, 18 March).

Russian propagandists faced the challenge of not being able to label the ICC a “tool of the United States” or “the West”, as even European countries don’t constitute the majority of states that have ratified the Rome Statute. Furthermore, Ukraine isn’t a party to the ICC, so the Court’s decision couldn’t be portrayed as “revenge” or a “conspiracy” in favor of Ukraine’s interests.

As a result, the primary focus was on promoting the idea of “double standards” and equating Putin’s arrest warrant with an assault on Russia’s security as a whole. This perpetuates the commonly used political mantra, “No Putin, no Russia”.

·       Russia's Isolation:

In the second half of March, Putin’s rhetoric regarding Russia’s international isolation became more assertive in the context of Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that isolating Russia is impossible. According to him, Russia will continue to develop its potential, utilizing its inherent competitive advantages” (Krasnaya Vesna, March 31).

Building on Putin’s statement, several publications cited typical “American experts” stating that “US President Joe Biden’s attempt to isolate Russia has led to the formation of a powerful anti-American coalition spearheaded by Moscow” (Lenta.ru, March 31). They also commented that “this is what happens when you appoint someone with dementia and expect him to handle strong leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin” (Lenta.ru, March 31).

·       Statement on the Deployment of Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Belarus

This statement prompted strong reactions from international players. Russian media covered the event as follows: “Vladimir Putin said that Moscow and Minsk had agreed to deploy tactical nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory without violating international agreements” (Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 30); “President Vladimir Putin has explicitly stated that there is no transfer of nuclear weapons. We are talking about the transfer of the Iskander-M tactical missile system to Belarus, the re-equipment of Belarusian air force aircraft and crew training, and the construction of a special storage facility for tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which will be under Russian control” (Kommersant.ru, March 31).

Belarus also played a role, with Alexander Lukashenko proposing a truce or “pause” in Ukraine, suggesting “a halt to hostilities in Ukraine and a truce without the right to move equipment and transfer weapons on both sides” (RIA Novosti, March 31). 

The Russian media noted that “Russian President Vladimir Putin will ‘most certainly’ discuss Lukashenko’s proposal during a meeting next week. However, in the context of Ukraine, nothing changes, as this is currently the only way to achieve the goals Russia is pursuing” (TASS, March 31).

·       New Foreign Policy Approach

A new foreign policy concept was published in Russia on March 31, with the majority of media references to Putin that day focusing on the direction of the Kremlin’s new approach and the main points of the document. Russian media highlighted priority countries, the so-called “strategic partners”: China, India, the DPRK, countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, parts of Latin America, and most of Africa.

The main message of the propagandists about Russia’s “peacefulness” was aimed at justifying the war as an important and legitimate tool of Russian foreign policy: “Russia’s foreign policy is peaceful, open, predictable, consistent, pragmatic, based on respect for generally recognized principles and norms of international law and the desire for equal international cooperation to solve common problems and promote common interests” (RosBusinessConsulting, March 31).

Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, is traditionally among the three most quoted people in the Russian media. In the second half of March, he was mentioned at least 1,654 times.

·       The Battle of Bakhmut

While there is no evidence of the “capture of Bakhmut”, which was promised in early February, the Russian media are forced to pull Zelenskyy’s words out of context to convince their audiences that Ukraine will still be defeated: because of the indecision and unpredictability of the Ukrainian President, because of the West’s intentions to force Ukraine to make concessions, because of the lack of ammunition.

“Ukraine, or rather its President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has some ‘little green men’ in his head. One of them is connected with Artyomovsk (Ukrainian Bakhmut). At first, Zelenskyy wanted to surrender it, but then he changed his mind and decided to defend it ‘to the last Ukrainian blood’” (Argumenty I Fakty, March 29).

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed concern that the West and his own citizens would push him toward compromise with Russia if the Ukrainian army suffers a defeat in Artyomovsk” (TASS, March 29).

“In an interview with Japan’s largest newspaper Yomiuri, Zelenskyy admitted that the Ukrainian army is currently unable to launch a counteroffensive in the eastern direction, explaining this by the lack of necessary weapons” (Gazeta.ru, March 26).

·       "Volodymyr Zelenskyy has once again gone above and beyond with his inappropriate behavior"

The Russian media have continued to focus on Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s alleged “mental” and “drug” issues, citing “narcologists” as “authoritative sources” who can make accurate diagnoses based on appearances on TV:

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy threw another tantrum at the EU summit. Narcologist Vasily Shurov explained that the Kyiv politician’s out-of-control behavior would continue to intensify. At the next EU summit, Volodymyr Zelenskyy once again went above and beyond with his inappropriate behavior. He began to demand new types of weapons from the West, not realizing that he was biting the hand that fed him. Narcologist Vasily Shurov explained that he has been dealing with drug addicts for a long time. And Zelenskyy’s behavior, he said, fits perfectly into the so-called ‘Cartman triangle’” (Tsargrad TV, March 23).

“Anna van Denski, a journalist from the Brussels Press Association, said that Volodymyr Zelenskyy behaved inappropriately during his speech at the EU summit” (Vzglyad.ru, March 24).

·       Reaction to Xi Jinping's visit

Russian media also used Xi Jinping’s visit to humiliate the Ukrainian president, stating that talks between China and Russia “knocked President Zelenskyy down”:

“Pandora’s box has opened. Xi’s visit to Moscow gave Zelenskyy pause”; “The reason for Zelenskyy’s silence is not due to a desire to consider China as a potential partner and investor, but to orders from the West. Zelenskyy simply behaved the same way as his Western masters” (Tsargrad TV, March 22).

“Zelenskyy is waiting for a call from China in vain. The West has done everything to thwart Chinese President Xi Jinping’s peace initiatives to resolve the conflict in Ukraine” (Vybor Naroda, March 26).


Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, was the third-most cited politician in March, with over 1,000 mentions in the second half of the month. His statements were mainly about the objectives of the war: 

“Peskov emphasized that a special military operation in Ukraine is now the only way to achieve the goals that Russia is facing” (RIA Novosti, March 31) and that “achieving the goals of the operation in Ukraine by political and diplomatic means is impossible” (RIA Novosti, March 20).

Peskov also pointed to the puppet nature of the Ukrainian government and the “Western masters” influencing it: “According to Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, peace initiatives cannot be implemented because Kyiv is forced to listen to ‘its curators’ who ‘insist that the war continues’” (TASS, March 31).

Eviction of the Moscow Patriarchate from the Lavra

In conclusion, let’s touch on the initiation of a new propaganda campaign by Russian media designed to incite religious hatred

In late March, news of the Ukrainian government terminating the lease agreement with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate for the Kyiv Cave Monastery premises stirred up the Russian media. Between March 22 and March 31, there were at least a thousand references to the Lavra in Russia’s largest and most prominent media outlets.

Notably, the issue of “religious persecution” and “monastery eviction” took a backseat from March 21-25, when the primary propaganda focus was on the Chinese leader’s visit. This serves as further, albeit indirect, evidence that the Kremlin’s interest in religion is purely manipulative and instrumental.

To sustain interest in church “persecution”, Russian media have reverted to their 2018-2019 tactics of closely monitoring and commenting on the “church seizures by schismatics”, as well as disseminating appeals to international organizations accusing Ukraine of “human rights violations”. 

“The Kremlin stated that the illegal actions of the Kyiv regime infringing on the church once more exemplify what Russia is combating and what it must stop. Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova appealed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to help prevent the lawlessness of the Ukrainian authorities in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra” (RIA Novosti, March 24).

On Sunday, March 26, Russian media shifted to providing intensive and active information support for the events surrounding the Kyiv Cave Monastery. By March 29, it becomes apparent that the UOC-MP clergy’s actions are primarily aimed at creating a “picture” of “conflicts” and “persecution” for the Russian media to reproduce.

Lastly, we examined the coverage of this issue by two of the Kremlin’s broadcasters: Channel One, which caters to the vast but passive masses in the “hinterland”, and Tsargrad, which targets active ultra-Putinists, Orthodox zealots, and potential volunteers willing to kill in the name of “faith, tsar, and fatherland”. 

A key distinction is that Channel One only started actively covering the topic on March 29, the day the lease termination and UOC-MP’s obligation to vacate the Lavra were scheduled.

Thus, from March 29 to March 31, the main directions and messages of Channel One were as follows:

·       Emphasizing the massive peaceful protest of believers "from all over Ukraine" against the "arbitrariness" of the Ukrainian authorities:

“Compromises are out of the question when it comes to faith. This is the unified position of the clergy and thousands of Orthodox believers who are at the walls of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra at this moment. There are so many people that the service began in the open air. And believers continue to come from all over Ukraine to offer prayers for the protection of the shrine. Less than 12 hours remain before the deadline for the ultimatum put forward by the Ukrainian side to the monks expires” (Channel One, March 29).

·       Hyperbolization of "violations of the rights of believers" and "repression" to divert attention from the Russian war crimes:

“Today, our Federation Council addressed our colleagues abroad, both in national parliaments and international organizations, about the Kyiv regime’s gross violation of the rights of believers. The senators adopted a statement calling on parliamentarians around the world to demand that the Ukrainian authorities comply with their international obligations. This includes Kyiv’s policy of religious intolerance, repression of the clergy, and seizures of churches. The deprivation of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of one of its main shrines, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, is considered egregious by the Council of Foreign Ministers.

Valentina Matvienko, Chairwoman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation: ‘The lawlessness that is already happening in Ukraine cannot be tolerated. And the relevant international organizations must show their reaction. The entire Orthodox world should not remain silent, must fight this godlessness, this satanism that is happening in Ukraine’” (Channel One, March 29).

·       Next, Channel One begins to call the events in Kyiv "religious raiding" and actually recognizes the inequality of power in the confrontation:

“The Ukrainian authorities, disregarding the law, the rights of believers, and the reaction of the Orthodox world, are committing outright religious raiding. The forces in this battle are unequal, but the holy place is defended by the prayers of monks, hundreds of people at the walls of the Lavra, and millions of believers who feel afflicted personally” (”Channel One”, March 29).

·       On March 30, the propaganda narrative shifted once more: Peskov's remarks and "eyewitness accounts" of police vehicles and machine gunners near the Lavra surfaced:

“There is information that patrol cars have been driven up to the walls of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. People in uniform appeared after the members of the commission for acceptance of property were not allowed into the monastery. Hundreds of parishioners blocked their way. The believers spent the whole night in the monastery, fearing seizure...

Russia strongly condemns the pressure exerted by the Kyiv authorities on priests and will not remain indifferent, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today” (Channel One, March 30).

·       March 31 marks a new turn in the coverage of the events surrounding the Lavra. Channel One already mentioned the legal claims of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture against the UOC-MP but immediately dismissed them as "illegal actions against the canonical church". The message is reinforced by words about alleged "provocations" by "trained radicals".

“The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is under siege. Today, Ukrainian officials and radical provocateurs came to the monastery again and were barred from entering the gates. The believers are standing in defense of the shrine by forming a human wall. They continue to hold services in the monastery and pray for deliverance from uninvited visitors. And the brethren are literally ringing all the bells so that both Ukraine and the world can hear this cry of the soul” (Channel One, March 31).

In other words, amidst the “military successes” in the Donbas and focus on China, the Kremlin’s primary television channel addressed the topic of “religious persecution” as secondary and supplementary to discrediting Ukraine. It can be inferred that the lack of violence or widespread fervor among UOC-MP believers in confronting the “Kyiv regime” played a significant role in this approach. This contrasts sharply with the extensive Russian propaganda in 2018-2019 when the Kremlin thought it could disrupt the entire process of unifying Orthodox churches and obtaining the Tomos [the Tomos refers to the decree issued by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on January 6, 2019. This decree granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), establishing it as a self-governing and independent church body, separate from the Russian Orthodox Church - translator].

The indifferent and passive stance of propagandists on the topic of “defending Orthodoxy” during the “holy war” may suggest a deep disappointment in this subject or a realization of its failure.

Conversely, an entirely different “discourse” dominates Russian fascist platforms such as Tsargrad TV. It is worth noting that the narrative shifts were no less frequent there.

·        On March 21, a notion was put forth suggesting that the senior clergy of the UOC-MP were responsible for their own predicament due to their "abandonment of Russia". Consequently, it was argued that they should not anticipate any protection:

“The author of the Telegram channel Politprav said that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church made a big mistake by trying to distance itself from Russia in the hope of earning mercy from the Kyiv regime.

It has now become obvious to everyone that no forgiveness can be expected from the Ukrainian authorities. However, there will most likely be no more intercession from Russia either” (Tsargrad TV, March 21).

Simultaneously, ultra-Putinists insist that the hierarchs of the UOC-MP cease their “foolish games” and acknowledge their complete association with the Russian Orthodox Church. They also urge believers to defend the Kyiv Cave Monastery using force:

Listen, maybe enough of this ‘Dew of Heaven’ [benevolent lies]? They are already being chased out of the Lavra, and they still won’t turn off the mantra ‘We are not the Moscow Patriarchate.’ Dear Legal Department of the UOC, your spells are not working! How did Archpriest Oleksandr Bakhov become a member of the Inter-Council Presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2014 if, judging by his ardent video, there is no such structure in Ukraine? This is reminiscent of teenagers who are ashamed to approach their parents when a group of their peers is watching them. Meanwhile, the group continues to “bully” them because traitors are not respected. After all, you have really received a lot from the Russian Church. Enough!

The war correspondent Dmitry Steshin, a man of deep faith, Orthodoxy, and uncompromising integrity, spoke even more harshly. He is not afraid of anything, as he has looked death in the face more than once. According to him:

Shrines are shrines when there are people who are willing to sacrifice their lives, health, and earthly well-being for them. Everything else is not shrines but rarities or artifacts. And we have confirmation of this postulate before us.

Yes, yes, holy lords, this is the absolutely sincere voice of a simple Russian Orthodox man to all of you. A man who quite reasonably concluded his lengthy ‘post’ with such bitter words:

And I wonder what Zelenskyy would have done if the monks had closed the gates of the Lavra, barricaded themselves in the buildings, and called civilians, the Armed Forces, and the police for help? Would they have broadcast the assault (which would have been happening, of course) to the whole world and suffered for the sake of the Faith? But no one even thought of that.

Although it is certainly difficult to imagine that the monks of the Kyiv Cave Monastery will repeat the feat of the monks of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery, who took up arms during the Troubles of the early seventeenth century and repelled the attempts of Polish-Lithuanian interventionists to seize their shrine. I repeat that martyrdom and confession are voluntary, and even the holy apostles at the beginning of their ministry hid from persecutors ‘for fear of the Jews.’

But to surrender the Lavra and all its saints, whose relics rest in numerous Lavra churches and caves, practically ‘not for fear, but for conscience’ is both a terrible tragedy and a terrible shame. Especially in the face of loyal Ukrainophile statements by Orthodox clergymen who are well aware of the history of the Russian Church and that no ‘Ukrainian Orthodoxy’ has ever existed” (Tsargrad TV, March 21).

·       On March 23, Tsargrad TV made an unexpected shift and disseminated messages that contradicted their initial assessments of the events in Ukraine. Ultra-Putinists and Orthodox zealots find themselves compelled to quote Patriarch Kirill, who openly advocates for the defense of the Lavra by invoking "human rights", "democracy", and the "European path of development" — concepts detested by the more radical segment of his flock. Additionally, they cite Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who stated that the UOC has not, in fact, yielded to the "Kyiv regime".

“Zakharova highlighted that the Ukrainian authorities, who are waging a battle against religion, will not be content with just seizing the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. In Ternopil, it has already been declared that their ‘strategic goal’ is to capture the Pochaev Lavra, another ancient Orthodox temple.

The new stage of the religious war in Ukraine, launched by the Kyiv regime, will not lead to anything good. The consequences will be tragic”, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman warned.

She also explained why the Kyiv regime waged war on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the first place. The point is that the clergy “refused to raise Hitler salutes” and swear allegiance to the criminals who seized power in Ukraine. The Church has not deviated from the covenants that were inherited from its ancestors” (Tsargrad TV, March 23).

·       On March 26, the confrontation around the Lavra is already seen labeled "a sign of the Zelenskyy regime's agony". The next day, Tsargrad TV started telling stories about the "miracle of the relics" of the Lavra, which allegedly forced the German commandant of Kyiv to retreat during World War II. It hints that something similar awaits the "Kyiv fascists". On March 29, the owner of Tsargrad, the sanctioned oligarch Malofeev, also spoke about how prayers and fasting would lead to the "defeat of the Ukrainian Nazis".

“‘The officially announced raider takeover of the oldest Russian shrine, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, is a clear demonstration of the agony of the Zelenskyy’s puppet regime,’ stated Mikhail Tyurenkov, head of the ideological department of the Tsargrad TV channel” (Tsargrad TV, March 26).

“Malofeev stressed that Orthodox Christians understand better than anyone that fasting and prayer can vanquish the enemy of humanity and its agents. ‘And today, March 29, on the day when the God-hating Ukrainian Nazi regime decided to evict monks from the oldest Russian monastery, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, it is particularly crucial to attend churches for the Mariino Stoyaniye [Matins for Fifth Thursday of Great Lent]. I am confident that this service alone can hasten our victory over the Kyivan God-haters,’ the founder of Tsargrad emphasized” (Tsargrad TV, March 29).

·       On March 29, the propagandists highlighted a significant event: the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church denounced the actions of the Ukrainian government. However, even Tsargrad TV did not clarify how this could assist the UOC-MP, encouraging its viewers to continue believing in "miracles".

“On March 28, on the eve of the disgraceful ‘ultimatum’ deadline for the monks of the Lavra, His Holiness Patriarch Porfirije of Serbia issued an official statement.

He acknowledged the canonical nature of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [MP] in contrast to religious impostors, to whom the Zelenskyy regime assigns the role of the ‘national Church’ and the new ‘proprietors’ of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra:

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church [MP] is the canonical and legitimate Orthodox Church in Ukraine and, concurrently, the largest religious organization in this country. It is recognized by all Orthodox Churches worldwide, as well as by all non-Orthodox Churches and denominations.

[...] The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is not one of the ‘combatants’ but a living and active Church of God in the unity of faith and liturgical communion with the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox Churches.

The Primate of the Serbian Church, on behalf of all the faithful of Orthodox Serbia, expressed support for the Ukrainian brothers in Christ who have become victims of anti-Christian persecution in the era of declared fake ‘tolerance’ and ‘democracy.’

The Serbian Orthodox Church observes with profound concern, grief, and empathetic brotherly love [...] the oppression, violence, and persecution that the current Ukrainian authorities are committing against the canonical Church, and thus against the majority of their own citizens.

In his address, Patriarch Porfirije drew attention to the true objectives of the anti-Russian rulers of contemporary Ukraine:

The behavior of the Ukrainian state leadership reveals that its true and possibly ultimate goal is to obliterate the historical memory and all traces of original Orthodoxy in Ukraine in order to alter its code and historical identity” (Tsargrad TV, March 30).

·       On March 30, Tsargrad TV propagandists promoted a statement by Pasha the Mercedes (Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Lavra) containing direct threats to the President of Ukraine and his family. To stir up emotions and religious hatred, a fabricated story was broadcast in which SBU officers supposedly played ping-pong using the relics of the Lavra saints. Naturally, no one was concerned that this directly contradicted the news that believers and monks had not allowed the authorities to enter the caves.

·       On March 30, Russian Orthodox propaganda took a new direction: The Russian Orthodox Church once again openly asserted that the UOC-MP is an integral part of it, ensuring the unity of "peoples in the territory of historical Russia".

“Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church stated that the events surrounding the Kyiv Cave Monastery constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of believers of the canonical Church. According to Vakhtang Kipshidze, Deputy Chairman of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media of the Moscow Patriarchate, the Kyiv authorities are replicating the actions of past atheists.

’Just as atheists did in the 1920s and 1930s: eviction of believers, an attempt to provoke a religious divide and encouragement of this divide,’ he said.

Moreover, under various pretexts, Kyiv is attempting to politically eradicate the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. For the Zelenskyy regime, it poses a threat — as part of Russian Orthodoxy, it unites the peoples living in the territory of historical Russia.

Kipshidze expressed hope that the representatives of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be able to withstand these persecutions” (Tsargrad TV, March 30).

As we can see, even the Russian fascist media have exhibited a glaring inconsistency in their coverage of the “religious theme”. Calls for violent confrontation abruptly cease following statements by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Foreign Ministry. It seems that the Kremlin is inclined to use the topic of the “seizure of the Lavra” not for provocations within Ukraine but to discredit our nation on the international stage. Of course, clashes between supporters of different churches will contribute to this, but the propagandists do not appear to be counting on a violent scenario.

Photo: Getty Images

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