August 03, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)


Odessa resists to Atlanticist intervention

This summer is unusually hot in Ukraine – not only due to swelter, sometimes exceeding +40 C. The political atmosphere is also overheated with two developments: firstly, with new elections (though this process is becoming permanent), and secondly, with NATO's "Sea Breeze" exercises in Nikolayev and Odessa regions.

Despite efforts of local authorities, the guests from the other side of the Atlantic did not enjoy the promenade. At every step, NATO's march stumbled upon powerful actions of protest, organized by various patriotic organizations. Citizens were rallying and picketing, while NATO-used military ranges were surrounded by tent villages of protesters. The Odessa authorities were even forced to introduce an unprecedented prohibition of public rallies for the period of the NATO event. Still, half thousand of Odessites were protesting during the whole period of exercises. The Odessa campaign was spearheaded by Valery Kaurov, chair of Common Fatherland organization and the Odessa Anti-NATO Resistance Committee.

Valery Kaurov's activity has already entailed a headache for city officials. On July 17, Kaurov was detained by police after the annual Sacred Procession in memoriam of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. Policemen waited for a while until Kaurov parted with his supporters, and blocked his auto with assistance from the Berkut spetsnaz ("War Eagle" special forces). When Kaurov demanded that the police display an arrest warrant, Berkut's officer threatened him with physical force, referring to an instruction from higher officials.

When Kaurov was brought to the Seaside Police Authority, journalists from Odessa and Kiev immediately arrived at the place. The police was categorically reluctant to comment. Valery managed to address the press from behind the bars, his speech being interrupted by policemen trying to drag him away from the window. After the police protocol was signed, Kaurov was evacuated through the back door and packed into a police auto, which swiftly rushed to the district court. There, Valery was kept until evening. The officials released after him only after imposing on him a fine of Hrn.170 for "incorrect organization of the procession".

We interviewed Valery Kaurov in his movement's headquarters days after the described events.

Q: What did your public activity start from?

Kaurov: I became a public figure in 2001, on the eve of the scheduled visit of Pope John Paul II. With blessing from Agaphangel, Metropolitan of Odessa and Izmail, I was then seeking for Russian organizations which could put up a resistance to the unwanted guest. Finding none, I organized my own movement, which later expanded into the all-Ukrainian Alliance of Orthodox Citizens. In Odessa, we call the tune in protection of rights of Russian compatriots. We stand for purity of Orthodox belief and for integrity of the Russian Orthodox Church. We campaign against NATO, for partnership with Russia, as well as in favor of federalization of Ukraine.

Q: Is the Alliance of Orthodox Citizens a clerical or a public organization?

K: The organization is established and functions with blessing from Metropolitan Agaphangel. We were also bestowed blessing from Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev. Quite recently, I was honored with the Orthodox order of Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow. The award was presented to me by the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk. Though usually such ceremonies take place in the Eparchy, I was invited to Moscow. I view this distinction as appreciation of not only my personal merits but also efforts of thousands of my associates.

Q: Which of your actions evoked the widest response?

K: In this year, that was primarily the "I Speak Russian" action. It lasted for twenty-five days and we collected 218,000 signatures in favor of recognition of Russian language as official in the Odessa Region. On May 8-9, we launched the tradition "St. George Band" action and the "Popular Referendum" inquiry, collecting 98,000 votes against Ukraine's entry into NATO and in favor of entry into the Common Economic Area (presently including Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan – Ed.). That was a very complicated effort, as we had to collect signatures across the whole region, including remote places 200 km away from Odessa. Last year, we participated in the anti-NATO campaign in Feodosia, Crimea. Recently, we successfully fought for the Orthodox cathedral in Ostrog, which the local officials were going to sign over to the splinter Filaret's church (the self-styled Kiev Patriarchate – Ed.).

Q: Have you got like-minded persons among Odessa officials? Is Common Fatherland going to become a political party?

K: Our representatives are active in the City Assembly. Transformation into a party is currently on. We have elaborated the charter of the new party, though it was too late to register it for running in this race. Therefore, we are going to join the campaign of one of the kindred political forces.

Interview prepared by Sergey Buntovsky (Ukraine)

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