Declaration of the Sumy diocese with regard to the provocation that took place near the Orthodox Cathedral in Sumy

March 3, 2015. The Sumy diocese (Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate) issued the Declaration with regard to the provocation that took place near the Transfiguration Cathedral in Sumy on the 1st of March 2015, on Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

“As the events that took place on 1 March 2015 near the entrance to the Transfiguration Cathedral of Sumy, got high publicity, the Sumy diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church considers it necessary to make the following official statement.

On 1 March 2015, Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, a group of approximately 20 people, wearing masks and camouflage clothing with the emblems of “the right sector” organised a provocation near the entrance to the Transfiguration Cathedral of Sumy. During the liturgy which was attended by the clergy of the Cathedral Centre, an activist of the election union “Svoboda” (“Freedom”) Volodymyr Oleksiyovych Ganzin, holding a poster with an offensive content, first started a verbal fight and then attacked a security guard of the Cathedral, causing him bodily injuries. The security guard requested medical assistance. The attackers organised a video and audio recording inside the Cathedral and in the street.

A group of young men wearing masks gathered near the Cathedral and blocked the entrance threatening to the bishop, clergy and to the faithful. As the bishop was supposed to exit the Cathedral after the end of the liturgy, the members of the parish informed that those aggressive persons could pose a real danger. But the bishop addressed to the faithful saying he would not change his route and would exit through the central entrance, while blessing those who came to pray, as it was common after the Sunday service. In the meantime the youngsters in masks were screaming various offensive words and threatened with violence. The crowd had pushed the attackers aside – only this made it possible for the bishop to reach his residence. After that the attackers had left shouting out patriotic slogans.

Later on, some of the attackers returned to the Cathedral demanding an urgent meeting with the bishop. They initiated a word-fight with the dean of the Cathedral, archpriest Mykolay Smakouz and demanded to open the doors of the Diocese Administration Office. After they had been informed about the working hours of the Diocese Administration those persons left. They were invited to come on Tuesday, during the working hours, however nobody had come.

Analysing events that had happened, it can be stated that Volodymyr Oleksiyovych Ganzin brought a poster of the colours of the Ukrainian national flag with the text of an offensive content in order to initiate a conflict and to provoke someone of the Orthodox members of the parish to take that poster in hands. Those actions were supposed to become an occasion for accusations of disrespect towards the national flag. As the initial plan didn’t work, Mr Ganzin started a word fight with a security guard and caused him bodily injuries. This fact is confirmed by a police protocol and by the results of the medical expertise of the victim.

The provocateurs that acted as hooligans near the central entrance to the Transfiguration Cathedral of Sumy on a very special day for the Orthodox Christians – Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy – acted cynically and aggressively, trying to hurt the religious feelings of the Orthodox faithful.

The provocateurs, in order to draw more attention to their actions, involved minors, which is unacceptable from the ethical point of view and from the point of view of a common sense. This only confirms the cynicism of the initiators of this provocation.

The non-activity of the State authorities and their inability to stop the unlawful actions that were taking place in front of them in the very centre of Sumy shows that the citizens of Sumy are absolutely unprotected from any possible criminal actions. One of the Sumy mayor’s deputies, who accidently witnessed the events, did not make any attempts to intervene and to prevent the rowdiness. Together with the police officers, who finally had arrived at the Cathedral, he only observed the events indifferently.

Disengagement and non-activity of the State representatives created the feeling of impunity of the offenders, who – through their provocative actions – are trying to establish the atmosphere of panic and show their superiority over the rest of the Sumy’s inhabitants. Not by an accident one of the local newspapers named one of the main motives of the provocation “to show who the master of the house is”.

Any accusations towards Sumy Diocese of bias and prejudice are groundless.

We call the citizens of Sumy to maintain public peace in the region. But also to be aware and sensible: in the event of a real threat to the Orthodox Christians to stand strong for the protection of churches and shrines. God of peace and brotherly-love may bless each Christian soul!”

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