VIEWER WARNING: CONTAINS CONTENT THAT MAY BE OFFENSIVE
The New York Post reports that the radioactive toxin used to kill Alexander Litvinenko has been traced to Russia (from the front page; the paper also has an editorial based on the story entitled “Paying Putin’s Price” and the Times of London also has elaborate update coverage). The editorial states:
Putin, of course, says that any suggestion he’s involved in these attacks – including the death of Litvinenko, one of his harshest critics – is ‘absolute nonsense’ and a “political provocation. Problem is, no one believes him – and with good reason. Why would Putin risk international condemnation by liquidating Litvinenko in a way that ensures the fingers of suspicion point to him? Probably because that’s the way the thugs at the Kremlin have always disposed of their pesky domestic critics. And because, given the need for Putin’s cooperation on major strategic issues, the international community has shown little interest in holding him accountable.
The Kremlin is trapped now, having failed to previously report that any radioactive material had gone missing (The New York Times reported: “Last week, Russia’s top nuclear official said it exports 8 grams of polonium 210 a month, or 96 grams a year, to the United States. That is 3.4 ounces, which seems like a trifle but in theory is enough for thousands of lethal doses. He also said Russia had made no exports to Britain in the past five years. ‘Allegations that someone stole it during production are absolutely unfounded,’ Sergei Kiriyenko, director of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said on Tuesday. ‘The controls are very tough.'”). The brilliant Scotland Yard is closing in. A furious Times of London editorial declares that Britain is “no place to settle scores” and states: “Whether we will ever get to the bottom of who killed Mr Litvinenko remains unclear. But one thing is all too obvious: another country’s battles are being waged on British soil and are putting British lives at risk.”
The Post reports:
High-tech detective work by British scientists has traced the radioactive poison that killed ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in London back to a nuclear power plant in Russia – further fueling the belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the murder, it was reported yesterday.
The “fingerprint” of the fatal isotope was revealed by officials of the Atomic Weapons Establishment from the various London sites and British Airways jets that have been contaminated with traces of polonium-210, London’s Evening Standard newspaper said.
Placing the origin of the poison in Russia only adds more credence to the claims that Putin wiped out Litvinenko – one of his harshest critics – as the spy himself charged on his deathbed.
The power plant was not named by the agency, which provides material for Britain’s nuclear arsenal.
The report came as British authorities disclosed that an Italian security expert who met Litvinenko on the day the ex-spy fell fatally ill has tested positive for the poison.
But there were conflicting reports on how much of the rare isotope contaminated Mario Scaramella.
Early yesterday British authorities described it as a “significant quantity.”
As a result, Britain’s Anti-Terror Group began investigating whether Scaramella was intended to be the second victim in a bizarre murder plot, The Times of London reported today.
Radiological experts concluded the amount found in Scaramella was more than what he could have gotten from casual contact with Litvinenko at the table they shared in a London sushi restaurant on Nov. 1.
“My son has been poisoned” was all that his father, Amedeo Scaramella, said when contacted by telephone yesterday.
But late yesterday Mario Scaramella was described as “well and showing no signs of radiation poisoning.” He is under protection at University College Hospital in London and undergoing extensive medical tests.
Last week, Scaramella said that during their lunch he showed Litvinenko evidence that he and Litvinenko were targets of the same killers who murdered the ex-spy’s friend, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, in October.
Hours after the lunch, Litvinenko, 43, showed the first symptoms of the poisoning that killed him on Nov. 23. Before he died, he accused Putin of ordering his poisoning.
In other developments in the international whodunit case:
* Litvinenko’s wife also tested positive for the poison, polonium-210, but showed no signs of illness.
Marina Litvinenko was “very slightly contaminated,” said Alex Goldfarb, a friend of her husband’s.
“It is a fraction of the lethal dose that Mr. Litvinenko himself had,” British Home Secretary John Reid said.
* A hotel in Sussex, southeastern England, was evacuated briefly as police and health workers carried out tests for polonium-210. The hotel had been visited by Scaramella after he met with Litvinenko.
“Police said they found nothing of any concern,” Graeme Bateman, the hotel’s managing director, said after it was reopened.
* A British government source said Italy may follow Britain’s lead and check levels of radiation on their aircraft, apparently because of Scaramella.
A spokesman for Easyjet said Scaramella had flown with it from his hometown of Naples to London on Oct. 31 and back again on Nov. 3.
* Authorities were also testing Dublin’s James Connolly Memorial Hospital, which treated former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar.
Aides of Gaidar suspect he was also poisoned while attending a conference in Ireland last week.
* Three pathologists wearing protective suits to guard against radiation carried out a post-mortem on Litvinenko at the Royal London Hospital. No details of the autopsy were expected for several days.
* Litvinenko’s family was told he will have to be buried in a sealed coffin to prevent further contamination, the BBC reported. If relatives wanted the remains to be cremated they will have to wait 22 years, the network said.
The disclosure about Scaramella’s polonium contamination raised new questions such as how he could have been poisoned.
In a deathbed interview, Litvinenko said Scaramella “ate nothing” during their Nov. 1 lunch. Scaramella only drank a liter of water.
Doctors now say Scaramella has a “considerably lower” level of polonium than Litvinenko. But his body apparently contains more of it than he could have gotten from shaking hands or sharing the same air at the restaurant.
Another mystery is why Scaramella insisted earlier this week that he had been told by doctors he wasn’t at any risk.
“I am fine. I am not contaminated and have not contaminated anybody else,” he told a reporter on Wednesday.
Yesterday doctors who examined him said it would take weeks before they know if he faces a long-term danger such as cancer. The body does not naturally eliminate polonium-210.
Italian Senator Paolo Guzzanti, who spoke to Scaramella’s lawyer yesterday, said Scaramella “is very depressed.”
But the latest development appeared to put to rest conspiracy theories claiming he was involved in the poisoning of Litvinenko.
Scaramella describes himself as a security consultant. Since his name surfaced in the case last month, he’s also been described as an environmental law professor, a shadowy information-peddler and a respected investigator with ties to Italian and Russian intelligence.
Italian media have reported that Scaramella is being investigated for arms trafficking, but his lawyer says he has not been notified of any investigation.
He won high praise from Guzzanti for his contributions to a parliamentary investigation, headed by Guzzanti, that exposed Russian agents in Italy.
During the Guzzanti probe, Scaramella met Litvinenko, who obtained asylum in Britain in 2000 because, he said, he refused to carry out murderous orders of the FSB, the successor to the KGB.
During Putin’s tenure in the Kremlin, the FSB has been expanded from a domestic security agency and is authorized to carry out operations beyond Russian borders.
From his hospital bed, Litvinenko recalled that he unexpectedly heard from Scaramella again in October when the Italian e-mailed him to say he had key information about the murder of Politkovskaya.
“Mario said he wanted to sit down to talk to me,” Litvinenko told The Sunday Times of London. They met at the sushi bar in London, where a “very nervous” Scaramella gave him a four-page e-mail.
After the lunch, Scaramella “disappeared,” but Litvinenko said he was not accusing him of wrongdoing.
Russian officials have steadfastly denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that Russia hasn’t even received a formal inquiry from Britain about the case.
“The ball is now in Britain’s court,” he said.
Putin supporters have hinted at other possible suspects, including Litvinenko’s mentor, exiled billionaire Boris Berezovsky.
Another theory being pursued by British investigators is that Litvinenko was killed after a falling out with Russian businessmen.
Reader Melissa Bushunow has provided La Russophobe with the following essay by Deacon Nicholas Chernjavsky of the Protection of the Mother of God Parish in Rochester, New York. La Russophobe is particularly interested in receiving further material of this kind for publication on Sundays; the issue of religious freedom in Russia is a vital one, particularly since the Kremlin has made clear its intention to favor the Orthodox Church and to coordinate policy on that basis. As LR previously reported, crosses have started going up on Russia’s borders, an ominous sign indeed.
BLACK CLOUDS OVER MOSCOW
Over eighty years ago and half a world away from where I now sit writing this, what came to be known as the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (aka Russian Church Abroad) was born. It was not a joyous occasion. In fact, the ascent of the communist regime in Russia, which was the reason Patriarch Tikhon issued the directive to form a separate church administration, was the dawn of the bloodiest persecution of Christians in history. This is not an overstatement.
I had not experienced it, but I knew those who had. Though I was raised in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century, I was always aware of the sheer magnitude of the evil that had overtaken my parents’ and grandparents’ homeland. I remember looking at the icon of the Russian New Martyrs and being amazed at the countless number of people standing in a crowd stretching out to the horizon ready to receive the crown of martyrdom from the angels passing them out to those who stood firm in their confession of Christ. I’ll never forget the grainy black and white footage of churches and bell towers collapsing to the ground following the detonation of explosives at the base. One, after another, after another, after another… Almost as disheartening was seeing the churches that survived, many of which were turned into warehouses, movie theaters, and, most insulting, public toilets. I got to see these with my own eyes when I visited in 1991.
Perhaps the most haunting were the photographs of bishops, starting with Patriarch Tikhon himself, that were martyred for the faith – killed because they refused to compromise their unshaken belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and their sacred duty to His Church. I found them in the back of a book in Russian about the persecutions. Somehow, the sight of their faces brought to life the stories of the incredibly cruel tortures they endured at the hands of the Soviets. What struck me was just how many martyred bishops there were: two-hundred and eight. With four photos per page and just a tiny caption telling who they were and when they were martyred, I slowly leafed through that appendix. These are my heroes. These are the men who, in this age of cynicism, show that there are still those who are willing to drink of the cup that the Lord drank of and to be baptized with the baptism that He was baptized with. Their stories should be trumpeted from the heights, for they are the genuine article. No politics, no self-interest, just Christ.
Sadly, not all of the bishops in Russia endured during this dark period. Some were broken and capitulated to the communists. These were the ones that survived in slavery to the regime. After the Patriarch was martyred and his replacement was exiled, the Soviet government gave the leadership of the Russian Church to Metropolitan Sergius (Stragorodsky), who infamously declared in 1927 that the Soviet Union’s “joys and successes are our joys and successes, and [its] sorrows are our sorrows. Every blow directed against the [Soviet] Union…we acknowledge as a blow directed against us.”1 This was a watershed moment and the term “Sergianism” began to be used with reference to the policy expressed in this declaration. From that moment on, the official bishops who had submitted themselves to the militantly atheistic communist state did not utter a word of public protest to anything the State did, even though the country was drenched in the blood of tens of millions of people. The present day Moscow Patriarchate is the inheritor of this legacy.
What followed this capitulation in 1927, unfortunately up until the present day, was a Church that marched in lock-step with the regime. If there were any rumors of persecution that made it to the West, they were vehemently and universally denied by the Patriarchate. In 1930, when the ruthless extermination of clergy and faithful by the Soviet government was at a fever pitch that was maintained for the next ten years, Sergius came out and told the world, “There never has been religious persecution in the USSR, nor is there now.” 2 And if churches are being closed, it is “not being initiated by the government, but by the wishes of the people, and in other cases, even by decision of the faithful.” 3 Outrageous lies became the face of a Moscow Patriarchate firmly under the boot-heel of the “wise, God-appointed leader of the people of our great Union” as Metropolitan Sergius frequently called Joseph Stalin, one of the bloodiest dictators in history. 4
Those first bishops who led the Patriarchate in the Soviet period eventually died and gave way to new bishops. These new bishops grew up and were educated in the Soviet Union. The most promising and energetic apologists for the regime were recruited by the KGB and pushed up through the ranks to become the mouthpieces of the State. As one disillusioned ex-KGB officer put it, “The KGB’s near-total control of the Russian Orthodox Church, both at home and abroad, is one of the most sordid and little known chapters in the history of our organization.” 5 Indeed, the information that has become available on this topic paints a gruesome picture. Right up to the break-up of the Soviet Union, these bishops would faithfully make statements like, “The laws of this country forbid persecution of citizens for their religious beliefs,” 6 and “We are all united by our love for our Socialist motherland.” 7
I am writing all of this, not because I want to publicly skewer the Moscow Patriarchate. In fact, I can’t express in words how much I would love to see the Church in Russia completely cleansed! The joythis would bring to both Church militant and Church triumphant would be without bounds! No, the reason for my writing this is to explain my own view, to anyone who would care to read it, on why the current basis for rapprochement between the Russian Church Outside of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate is completely wrong and would lead the entire Orthodox Church to bear the burden of the sins of those same Moscow Patriarchate bishops I have mentioned. This cannot be swept under the rug. It is not going away.
Let me first clarify that the personal spiritual state of those hierarchs who capitulated is not at issue here. They will be judged as we all will be judged, by Christ in the Final Judgment. Certainly, these bishops are to be greatly pitied. I would hope that I would have endured had I been in their shoes. However, I have four little reasons to think that I may not have endured running around the house right now. There, but for the Grace of God, go I.
However, it is essential that we judge ideas, and the idea of Sergianism as a way to “save” the Church is as without precedent in Christian teaching as it is lethal. Notice, what I am arguing is not that we should stop praying for or pitying the hierarchs whose strength failed them during what had to be an unimaginably terrible time. What I am arguing is that becoming Stalin’s sock-puppet doesn’t make someone a hero, and it certainly doesn’t save the Church. The heroes that were saving the Church were being tortured and killed in the Gulag. The Lord Himself, as well as millions who followed Him, showed us that this was the way.
Unfortunately, the position of the Moscow Patriarchate continues to stand at odds with this. In 2003, a book about Metropolitan Sergius, called The Guardian of the House of the Lord, was published by the Moscow Patriarchate. The book itself is a lengthy biography which also reads, in parts, like an apologetic work for the Church’s capitulation to the Soviet regime. If that weren’t bad enough, the forward was written by the current Patriarch, Alexy II, in which he praises the heroic path taken by Sergius and viciously castigates the critics of this path. Concerning those that did not follow Sergius in his submission to Stalin, he writes that these “schismatics”, “not having reconciled themselves to the new government, became a danger just as big as the persecutions.” 8 Sergius’ actions, on the other hand, only get words of praise, as he is credited with averting, “maybe even the destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church itself.” 9 Not one word about how human weakness led Sergius to a disastrous compromise and the sorrowful path of the enslaved Church in the Soviet Union. Had the Patriarch said this, it would be an admission that Sergius’ action, while understandable, was wrong.
But the Moscow Patriarchate’s actions show that it considers Sergianism to be anything but wrong. In fact, it is heroic. The Patriarchate tries to pacify critics by pointing to a sub-section in a document called the “Basis of the Social Concept” where it says that, in general, if the government asks the Church to do something it considers wrong, the Church is free to reject this. But at the same time, the Patriarch has blessed the construction of a memorial complex in honor of Metropolitan Sergius, complete with a square, a museum and a monument. 10 The only comparison I can come up with is if Britain decided to build a monument to honor the heroic actions of Neville Chamberlain, but that would be unfair to Chamberlain because his policy of appeasing Hitler was neither as deep nor as long lasting as Sergianism was, or perhaps I should say, is.
As a bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate during the Soviet period, how many times do you drive past a pile of rubble that was a church or a church converted into a public toilet, before you begin to doubt whether or not you are even serving, much less “saving”, the Russian Church? This question, of course, presupposes that there were bishops who deceived themselves into thinking that they were “saving” the Russian Church, but this is history. A more pertinent question is why does the Moscow Patriarchate continue to embrace Sergianism?
The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that the mentality of the present leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate stems from a Sergianist past, and they live in a state of subservience to the government even now. For example, in May of 2005, Patriarch Alexy wrote a congratulatory epistle to the president of Vietnam on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the communist victory in the Vietnam War. He called it a “glorious anniversary” and said that it opened up new horizons for the Vietnamese people. 11 Why would any Christian leader praise an event that led to a Vietnamese system of camps for reeducation and extermination, thousands of boat people fleeing misery and repression, not to mention the unimaginable terror that was unleashed in neighboring Cambodia? There seems to be only two possible answers: either the Patriarch is a communist sympathizer, or the Kremlin directed him to write this. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event in that similar letters have been sent to the leaders ofNorth Korea and Cuba.
The Moscow Patriarchate again finds itself with a government that does not tolerate dissent. Ever since Vladimir Putin’s election as president of Russia, nostalgia for the Soviet past has increased just as personal freedoms have been eroded. This is not a man who would let a powerful organization like the Moscow Patriarchate do as it pleases, and he has found willing accomplices in the top hierarchs who continue to trumpet Sergianism as heroic. In today’s Russia, critics of the Kremlin are dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly, but this has not affected the Patriarchate, as there seems to be not a peep of criticism coming from those quarters. It is also a curious thing that it was Putin who initiated the process to bring the Russian Church Abroad under Moscow’s influence.
Is it a hopeless scenario then? As long as we have God, we have hope. However, the Russian Church Abroad stands on the cusp of integration with the Moscow Patriarchate, effectively silencing it as a voice against the idea that those who capitulate to dictators are heroes. Before, it was a Russian problem. Now, it becomes the Orthodox Church’s problem. The Western Church has lived with the historical burden of the Inquisition and the Crusades but the Orthodox Church has been able to disassociate itself from any such tragedies – until now.
If persecution should resume, and someday it will, God forbid that what the Moscow Patriarchate paints as being heroic actions of Metropolitan Sergius should be taken as a precedent! We, as Christians, know that the future holds something called the End Times. When they will occur, nobody can tell, and certainly it isn’t good to be preoccupied by them. But someday, a great evil will grip all of humanity, and this evil will be looking for precisely the kind of bishops that the Moscow Patriarchate calls heroes – the capitulators. This is why it is imperative to loudly and thoroughly denounce the Sergianist innovation as being wrong and completely contrary to the example shown to us by the Church for two-thousand years.
The Orthodox Christian Church is the light to the world that the Lord provided for us at Pentecost. Steadfastly over the past two millennia, the Church has guided those in this storm-tossed life to a safe haven in the Lord. The world has fought against it.
But there is a black cloud over Moscow. Tens of millions died, while the bishops in the Patriarchate looked on. This black cloud will continue to hang there no matter how many agreements and resolutions come out swearing that it is white. The only way that it will go away is through the method demonstrated by the spiritual giants of old: repentance. A firm, loud and universal declaration, backed by deeds, that the way of Christ is not the way of compromise with evil, but a stand for Truth, even unto death.
Please pray for the bishops of the tiny Russian Church Abroad that they withstand the pressure to quickly unite with the Moscow Patriarchate under circumstances where rejection of Sergianism is feeble, forced and parenthetical and the embracing of Sergius’ path is being solidified as a proud Russian heritage. Also, we must pray for the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, and of the entire Holy Orthodox Church as a whole that the dreadful legacy of the Russian Church’s enslavement to the Soviet regime might not spread, but be expunged forever.
Deacon Nicholas Chernjavsky
The Protection of the Mother of God Parish (ROCOR)
1. Alexey Young, The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (St.Willibrord’s Press, 1995) p.31
2. M.E. Gubinin, Akti Svyateyshego Patriarcha Tikhona i pozdneyshiye dokumenti o preemstve visshey tserkovnoy vlasti 1917-1945 (St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Institute, 1994)
4. Vladimir S. Rusak, Istoria Rossiyskoy Tserkvi (1993) p. 444
5. Oleg Kalugin, The First Directorate (St. Martin’s Press, 1994) p. 197
6. Jane Ellis, The Russian Orthodox Church (Indiana University Press, 1986) p. 209
7. Christopher Andrew, The Sword and the Shield (Basic Books, 1999) p.498. This is a fascinating collection of KGB materials that were smuggled out of the Soviet Union by KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin. There is an entire chapter detailing the systematic infiltration and manipulation of the Moscow Patriarchate by the KGB.
8. Sergei Fomin, Strazh Doma Gospodnya (Moskovsky Sretensky Monastir’, 2003)
10. News item on the official website of the Moscow Patriarchate, http://www.mospat.ru, entitled “Svyateyshiy Patriarkh Aleksiy blagoslovil sozdaniye v Arzamse memorialnogo kompleksa, posvyaschennogo Patriarkhu
Sergiyu (Stragorodskomu)”, April 22, 2005
11. Posting on the official site of the Moscow Patriarchate, http://www.mospat.ru, entitled “Predstoyatel’ Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tservi pozdravil v’etnamsky narod c 30-letiyem pobedi v voyne soprotivleniya”, May 2005
Check out the post on Global Voices about the use of famine as a genocide weapon by Russia. Last Saturday Ukrainians held a memorial vigil to commemorate the victims of this relatively unknown holocaust, unknown because the facts have been suppressed and denied by the Russian perpetrators. And Russians wonder why Ukrainians want no part of them!
Monsters and Critics (among many others) reports that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov attempted to kill a front page story in the Russian version of Forbes magazine which was unfavorable to his wife, coincidentally (or perhaps not) one of the world’s 400 richest people. After an explosion of international pressure and the resignation of its editor, the magazine backed down and ran the story. When last we heard from Forbes, its Russia editor had been rubbed out in an episode that, it now seems, eerily prestaged the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, and the accused killers had been set free.
Here we see Russia in microcosm. We see the vast, godawful disparity of wealth between a small fundamentally corrupt oligarchy tied to those in government and the vast unwashed population, the signal hallmark of Russia in the Nineteenth Century. We see the horrifying indicia of totalitarianism, the signal hallmark of Russia in the Twentieth Century. And we see the fundamental weakness of Russia when confronted by concerted, consistent, determined resistance; the country is simply to weak to stand and fight.