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Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church hires US lobbyist for $1400 per Hour

UOC-MP is paying a hefty price to promote the idea of ongoing “religious persecution” in Ukraine
Ukrainian Orthodox Church Russia
L-R: Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) primate Metropolitan Onufriy, Russian Orthodox Church primate Patriarch Kirill, prominent financier of UOC MP, Ukrainian oligarch and lawmaker Vadym Novynskyi during a UOC MP visit to Moscow to greet Kirill with the 10th anniversary of his election to primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, 16 June 2019. Photo: Novynskyi’s Facebook
Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church hires US lobbyist for $1400 per Hour

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) has hired a lobbyist in the United States for $1400 per hour to promote its interests in the country, according to a new foreign agent registration document, liga.net reports.

This comes as Ukraine eyes legislation to outlaw religious entities with their centers in Russia amid rising hostility in Ukrainian society towards the UOC-MP. If approved, it could mean Ukraine taking the UOC-MP parishes to court.

The UOC-MP is being accused of retaining its ties to its mother Moscow Patriarchate, which blesses Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, one year and eight months into Russia’s full-blown war.

However, the UOC-MP rejects these accusations, claiming to have severed these ties in May 2022, and maintains that the Ukrainian state is executing religious persecution by searching UOC-MP premises, facilitating the transition of UOC-MP churches to an independent Orthodox Church, opening criminal cases against separate UOC-MP clergy accused of aiding Russian aggression, severing lease agreements for church buildings, and eyeing legislation that would outlaw the UOC-MP.

Nevertheless, an independent expert commission had in February 2023 concluded that the UOC-MP is still subjugated to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The narrative of Ukraine’s alleged religious persecution against the UOC-MP is widespread among US republicans, with conservative personalities such as Tucker Carlson making claims such as that “Ukraine persecutes Christians.”

The agreement was signed on 16 October 2023, as reported in the US Department of Justice’s FARA eFile system. It states that law professor William Whitney Berk-White will be paid at an hourly rate of $1400 under an agreement “entered into of each party’s own free will and continuing until terminated by either party.”

According to the filing, the lobbyist was hired by the “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” with the address listed as St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv. This cathedral actually belongs to another church, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which became independent in 2018 from the hands of the Ecumenical Patriarch in a snub to Moscow.

However, OCU hierarch, Metropolitan Yevstratiy stated on social media that the lobbying contract was made by a firm hired by Ukrainian oligarch and UOC-MP archdeacon Vadym Novynskyi to “spread Moscow Patriarchate propaganda.”

The document lists the Amsterdam and Partners LLP firm as the source of the $7000 payment to the lobbyist. In August 2023, Amsterdam and Partners announced they had been retained by Novynskyi to “defend against a series of politically motivated attacks by the Ukrainian government.”

Activities carried out by the lobbyist so far include:

  • Publishing an op-ed in The Hill
  • Outreach to the State Department’s Office of Religious Freedom
  • Outreach to the office of Senator John Ossoff
  • Outreach to the White House
  • Outreach to the offices of Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

The Hill op-ed from 19 October is titled “If Ukraine is truly committed to human rights, it must uphold its freedom of religion” and argues against potential legislative bans on the UOC-MP.

On 21 October, the Ukrainian parliament has passed a law in the first reading aimed at potentially banning the Russian-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP).

The law is seen as relatively mild, proposing legal action against specific religious organizations with ties to Russia. It outlines a complex process involving the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience to determine ties to Russia and initiate legal action, potentially taking years for a ban to be enforced.

Read more about the situation of the UOC-MP in our article “Ukraine makes first step to ban Russian-backed church.”

Ukraine makes first step to ban Russian-backed church

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