Voices from Russia

Monday, 16 July 2012

Russia Sees Blackmail in Western Stance on Syria

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (1950- )


On Monday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia sees “elements of blackmail” in the West linking new sanctions against Syria with the extension of the international observer mission there, and said it was unrealistic to expect Moscow to force President Assad to step down, saying before a meeting with UN Special Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, “To our great distress, we saw elements of blackmail. They told us, ‘If you don’t give us an agreement on accepting the [UN Security Council] resolution on Article 7 of the UN Charter, then, we’ll refuse to prolong the UN Observer Mission mandate”. The unarmed observers went to Syria following a UN Security Council vote in April, to observe compliance with the Annan peace plan. Lavrov said that Moscow thinks such an approach “is absolutely counterproductive and dangerous; to use the observers as bargaining chips is inadmissible”.

On Wednesday, Britain, France, and Germany presented the UN Security Council with a draft resolution that linked an extension of the UN Observer mission in Syria with the fulfilment by the Syrian government of a series of demands within ten days, including an end to use of heavy weapons. The draft included introduction of a series of diplomatic and economic sanctions against Damascus if it failed to carry out the resolution’s demands, in line with Article Seven of the UN Charter, which allows the Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to take military and non-military action to “restore international peace and security”. Russia declared that it wouldn’t accept the western draft proposal and countered it with its proposal, which included an extension of the observer mission for another three months to carry out the Annan plan to resolve the conflict.

Lavrov also dismissed calls by Western powers for it to use its influence to persuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand down as leader of the violence-stricken Middle East country as “unrealistic”, saying, “They tell us that we should persuade Assad to step down of his own free will. This is simply unrealistic. He won’t leave… not because we’re protecting him, but because he has the support of a very significant part of the country’s population. We’ll accept any decision by the Syrian people on who’ll govern Syria, as long as it comes from the Syrians themselves”. Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that both Russia and China would “pay a price” for what she said was their support for Assad. Western powers repeatedly accused both countries of protecting the embattled Syrian leader.

Lavrov will discuss the mounting crisis in Syria with UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan later on Monday. Annan is also due to meet President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday during a two-day visit to the Russian capital, his second since March. The Kremlin is continuing to push Annan’s six-point peace plan as the only way to bring an end to the spiralling violence in Syria, despite the failure of a ceasefire stipulated under the deal, which rebel forces have said they won’t abide by. Annan’s plan doesn’t call for Assad’s departure. Lavrov said, “We need to pressure both the régime and the opposition to make them stop the violence”, adding that Russia had been able to persuade the Syrian armed opposition to drop what he called “radical demands”, saying, “They continued to talk about a revolution”. Lavrov held talks with two Syrian opposition groups last week.

Moscow has come under increasing international pressure over what Western powers say is its support for the Syrian government, the Kremlin’s sole remaining ally in the Arab world. An almost 17-month revolt against Assad has left up to 16,000 people dead, according to Syrian activists quoted by the UN. The UN and human rights groups, both in Syria and abroad, accused government forces and pro-Assad militia of executing and torturing civilians. Over the weekend, the International Red Cross said that the conflict in Syria was now a “civil war”, officially obliging both sides to observe Geneva Conventions regulations on the non-targeting of civilians.

Russia, along with China, refused to support Western-backed UN resolutions on Syria that it says betray a pro-rebel bias, which could leave the door open for foreign military intervention against the Assad régime. Earlier this year, Putin vowed not to allow a repeat of the “Libya scenario”, which saw the ouster and murder of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after a NATO military campaign. In a move interpreted as a possible shift in the Kremlin’s position, last week, a Russian arms trade official said Moscow wouldn’t sign new deals on weapons deliveries to Syria until peace was established. Russia insisted its arms supplies to Syria have been of an exclusively “defensive” nature.

Damascus saw the heaviest fighting of the entire uprising against Assad this weekend, the violence in the Syrian capital coming after the defection of Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, the most senior figure to abandon the Assad régime since the conflict began. Lavrov also said Moscow was concerned by what he said was the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict and the introduction of a “third force” of Islamist extremists, saying, “It’s worrying that, according to multiple eyewitnesses, a so-called third force in the form of al-Qaeda and extremist organisations close to it has become active. This is a tendency that we’ve observed in other parts of the region, it threatens security”.

16 July 2012




16 July 2012. Holy Synod Released a Reason for JP’s Dismissal


All the goodthinkers are jumping up and down. One of them posted on the Orthodox Forum:

I think this pretty much puts some the theories that have been making their rounds on line to rest.

The person who wrote this is an SVS fanatic and tied in the First Family crowd on the Island. It does put one thing to rest, though… it means that SVS has thrown in its lot with the First Families, and that no decent person should trust anything emanating from it or anyone connected with it in any way. The Holy Synod release still did NOT reveal much… indeed, much less was revealed than in the cases in Yekaterinburg, in Chukotka, and Vladimir (three cases where the MP Holy Synod dealt with recalcitrant clergy), here it is:

We, the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, have hesitated to release further details surrounding the resignation of Metropolitan Jonah as Primate of our Church, this in a desire to preserve his dignity and to prevent further harm to an innocent party. We did this knowing there would be appeals for additional information regarding our decision. We also harboured some hope that Metropolitan Jonah would show a willingness to accept responsibility for his actions and failures to act. However, things said and written by Metropolitan Jonah since his resignation have demonstrated that he is not accepting that responsibility.

Why did we ask Metropolitan Jonah to resign?

In slightly less than four years as our leader, Metropolitan Jonah has repeatedly refused to act with prudence, in concert with his fellow bishops, in accordance with the Holy Synod’s Policies, Standards, and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct (PSPs), and in compliance with advice of the Church’s lawyers and professionals in expertise in dealing with cases of sexual misconduct.

The most disturbing and serious matter, indeed the final matter that caused us to ask the Metropolitan to resign or take a leave of absence and enter a treatment program, involves the Metropolitan’s poor judgment in critical matters of Church governance, lack of adherence to the PSPs, and the risk of serious harm to at least one other person. While the names, dates and other details must be held in confidence to minimize the risk of further harm, we can say the following.

At some point after his enthronement as our Primate, Metropolitan Jonah unilaterally accepted into the OCA a priest known to him and to others to be actively and severely abusing alcohol, which more than once was coupled with episodes of violence and threats toward women. One of these episodes involved the brandishing of a knife, and the other the discharge of a firearm, the former resulting in the man’s arrest. The man was also incarcerated for three days in yet another incident, shortly after he was accepted into the OCA by Metropolitan Jonah. While under Metropolitan Jonah’s omofor, this priest is alleged to have committed a rape against a woman in 2010.

Metropolitan Jonah was later told of this allegation in February 2012, yet he neither investigated, nor told his brother bishops, nor notified the Church’s lawyers, nor reported the matter to the police, nor in any other way followed the mandatory, non-discretionary PSPs of the OCA. The alleged victim, however, did report the rape to the police. We know, too, that the alleged victim and a relative were encouraged by certain others not to mention the incident, and were told by them that their salvation depended on their silence. As recently as last week Metropolitan Jonah was regularly communicating with one of those who tried to discourage the reporting of this crime by the alleged victim and her relative. In addition, the Metropolitan counselled the priest to pursue a military chaplaincy, without informing the military recruiter of any of the priest’s problems. Finally, the Metropolitan attempted to transfer the priest to other Orthodox jurisdictions, and ultimately did permit him to transfer to another jurisdiction, in each case telling those jurisdictions there were no canonical impediments to a transfer.

We have started an investigation into the rape allegation, and cannot assume whether the allegation is true or not. We only know that earlier allegations of misconduct by this priest were handled by Metropolitan Jonah in a manner at a complete variance with the required standards of our Church.

Moral, canonical and inter-Orthodox relations issues aside, in light of the recent widely-publicised criminal cases involving sexual abuse at Penn State and in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Kansas City Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, the extent of the risk of liability to which the Metropolitan has exposed the Church cannot be overstated. We knew already from past experience with Metropolitan Jonah that something had to change; we had hoped that change would come about as the result of Metropolitan Jonah fulfilling his promise to comply with the recommendation given him by the medical facility to which he was admitted for evaluation and treatment last November, as he assured us he would do at our last All-American Council in Seattle. That promise having gone unfulfilled, when this latest problem came to our attention at the end of June, we felt that we had no choice but to ask him to take a leave of absence or to submit his resignation. The moral, human, canonical and legal stakes were simply too high.

Leading up to this most recent problem, there has existed for several years now a repeated pattern by Metropolitan Jonah of taking other unilateral actions that were contrary to the advice of the Holy Synod and/or the Church’s lawyers, which prolonged or caused litigation involving the OCA, which substantially increased legal fees, which created confusion in negotiations, and which exposed the OCA to otherwise avoidable additional financial and legal liability.

He withheld information from his brother bishops and from the Church’s lawyers concerning litigation matters, and matters which might have resulted, and still might result, in litigation.

He has spoken unilaterally with and provided sensitive information to opposing counsel and opposing parties concerning pending and threatened litigation, although he had specifically been warned many times of the perils in doing so.

He gave to unauthorised persons a highly sensitive, painstakingly detailed internal Synodal report concerning numerous investigations into sexual misconduct, risking leaks of names of alleged victims and alleged perpetrators. While those who now possess the report are wrongfully in possession of OCA property, they have not yet returned their copies of these highly confidential and sensitive documents, further exposing our Church to potential legal liabilities.

What we have said here is based on the Metropolitan’s own words, both during numerous Holy Synod and Metropolitan Council meetings, and established in documentary evidence. We cannot release that publicly, and the Metropolitan Council members have legal and moral obligations to maintain in confidence information pertaining to threats to individuals and alleged crimes. We have however been communicating with and will continue to communicate with law enforcement authorities.

Our request for Metropolitan Jonah’s resignation, or that he take a leave of absence for treatment, came at the end of a rather long list of questionable, unilateral decisions and actions, demonstrating the inability of the Metropolitan to always be truthful and accountable to his peers. The Metropolitan’s freely-chosen resignation has been characterized by him and others as the result of politics and internal discord among the members of the Holy Synod. Quite to the contrary, the other members of the Holy Synod stand firmly together in our unanimous astonishment at the Metropolitan’s actions. We cannot stress enough that while the most recent events are likely the most dangerous for the Church, these represent only the latest in a long series of poor choices that have caused harm to our Church. We understand and agree that an ability to work or not work well with others, or a challenged administrative skill set, or Metropolitan Jonah’s refusal to comply with the recommendations of the treatment facility, while not the reasons for his requested resignation, were fundamentally related to the consequences of his actions.

Each bishop of the Orthodox Church in America has a duty to Jesus Christ to shepherd his respective diocesan flock, and to be a good steward and trustee of the temporal properties of the Church entrusted to his care. After the developments of the past few weeks, we knew, individually and together acting in one accord as the Synod, that we could no longer exercise our duties as shepherds or as trustees and stewards without asking for the Metropolitan’s resignation.

There are some who are seeking to promote a variety of rumours or other reasons for the Metropolitan’s resignation, in their conversations or on the Internet. Some argue that the resignation had to do with moral or political views publicly expressed by Metropolitan Jonah that conflicted with the views of others in the Church, the so-called “culture wars”. Such views have never been a point of contention in Holy Synod or Metropolitan Council meetings. These issues were discussed, and statements and actions of the Holy Synod have demonstrated their unchanging position on traditional Orthodox views of morality. This speculation as to other motives behind the resignation is simply not true; the reasons for the resignation are detailed in this message.

We continue to pray for Metropolitan Jonah’s spiritual needs even as his brother bishops have provided for his immediate material needs. He has no Church assignment obligations, allowing him to focus on himself and his family. Meanwhile, he is drawing full salary and benefits until at least October, when the Holy Synod next meets.

We ask your prayers for the Church, for Her clergy and faithful, and for Her mission in the world.



If the OCA Holy Synod wants to be taken seriously, it need only do one thing. It should issue a statement, as soon as possible, disassociating the OCA from Ray Velencia’s lawsuit against Fr Mike Regan. Fr Mike had to grovel in public (which, no doubt, pleased RV greatly). That was unnecessary. JP was RV’s bishop. JP had the responsibility to smack down RV for daring to sue another priest in a court of law without first seeking permission. RV’s under suspension… I asked around, and the unanimous answer I got from the priests I asked was, “If he’s suspended, if he’s convicted by another spiritual court, he’s dog meat… he should be deposed immediately”. Furthermore, the OCA Holy Synod should contact the court involved and disassociate itself from RV… “We have nothing to do with this lawsuit, launched by a suspended clergyman against a clergyman in good standing”. That, and only that, will restore the good name of the Holy Synod. You see, if the lawsuit continues, it makes a mockery of the OCA… it doesn’t stand up for its priests in court. How much lower can you get?

Here’s another angle that I got from a Cabinet Member:

Talk in the South of open rebellion. It appears they can’t reconcile their idealised picture of JP with the facts laid out in today’s Synod statement (and they ARE facts, as any MC member knows), ergo, many assume the Synod is lying. So, we might see that uncanonical Rump OCA sooner than we think, made up mainly of Southerner konvertsy… and if JP is half the nut I think he is, he might see himself deposed in connection with it and beyond recourse (the Centre isn’t going to rescue him, and the EP hates him personally). I understand there was much hand-wringing in the Synod on whether to release anything at all to counter JP’s narcissistic construction of the recent events. In the end, they decided to tell it like it is. Good for them. God helps us all!

It’s getting MORE confused in the near term, which is what I expected to see at the OCA’s death throes. The next Holy Synod meeting is set for October. The London Conference is set for October. Which is going to occur first, I wonder?

Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Monday 16 July 2012

Albany NY

US Weather Affects Power and Politics


The thermometer reads 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) and people on the streets race from their cars to air-conditioned buildings. Last week saw record temperatures in DC, followed by violent storms sweeping through Washington from the Midwest to the Atlantic. Four million people lost power, suffering in a triple-digit heat wave. For the USA, a power outage doesn’t mean just a lack of electricity, halted elevators, and romantic candles on the table. Firstly, this means no A/C, which is vital in summer in most states from Louisiana to New York, from DC to Arizona, when daily temperatures hover above 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) for weeks on end, recalling Turkmenistan, Bahrain, and Malaysia combined. Even dogs feel the heat, and stop by bowls of water that managers of most restaurants and shops set out in front of their doors. Only cicadas rejoice at these temperatures, singing all night.

According to statistics, nearly 90 percent of Americans have air conditioning in their homes. This is one of the essential attributes of American life, along with shorts and t-shirts, hamburgers, Coca-Cola, fridges, and a bottle of water in hand. Then, suddenly, a blackout happens. Darkness immerses entire neighbourhoods; indoor temperatures become critical within a few hours. Items in the fridge melt and spoil instantly. Traffic lights don’t work, and car accidents… rather rare in the DC area… multiply. People are confused and frustrated. Fire and ambulance sirens blare more often. Since powerful winds accompanied the storm, many trees fell on cars and houses, cutting them in two. There was one house… now, there are two… Those who were fortunate had their electricity restored in less than a day. However, thousands went more than four days without power. This provoked a new wave of criticism.

According to surveys, Pepco, the dominant utility responsible for electricity supply in many areas of DC and in Montgomery County in Maryland, is one of the most hated names in the USA. Compared with other utilities, Pepco ranks below its competitors in the pace of outage repair. Two remarks are required here. The first one regards technology. Whilst relatively new neighbourhoods in the American capital and its suburbs have underground power lines, the older areas have aboveground wires. Therefore, any falling branch can cause serious disruptions in energy supply. The second remark is paradoxical. The irony is that Montgomery County is one of the wealthiest in the USA, full of prestigious and pricey houses and white rich neighbours. Yet, with surprising punctuality, it suffers from the weather effects. Ten years ago, the county’s residents had no power for two weeks in the wake of a similar thunderstorm. They bought up every diesel generator they could find within driving distance. This didn’t happen in a remote area of Montana or Oklahoma, but twenty minutes from the White House and Capitol Hill. To use terms familiar to Muscovites, it’s somewhere between Kuntsevo and Novo-Ogarevo.

Following an accident ten years ago, the word “Pepco” took on a new semantic connotation, meaning something that’s never resolved. There were hearings in the legislature, and a special commission worked out proposals on increasing the utility’s efficiency. Now, county residents say that the work has noticeably improved, but their air conditioners still fail in a heat wave, and this puts the company’s reliability back into question. Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, who may run for president in 2016, also faced harsh criticism. Atlantic magazine wondered how the “Democratic Party’s hope for the White House in 2016” can run when, after six years in office, the governor “has done nothing to address his state’s power-utility woes”. It went on to say that his claim to national leadership “seems a practical joke”. Discussions are actively underway to enhance the utility’s reliability and efficiency. More changes will likely follow for the power companies, as well as for the prospects of certain elected figures, especially if new blackouts occur… a likely event. Record temperatures appear almost daily from the Midwest to the East Coast with the ever-present threat of “severe thunderstorms”.

9 July 2012

Svetlana Babaeva



16 July 2012. RIA-Novosti Infographics. Internet Content Regulation in Various Countries


16 July 2012



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