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Analysis of the collaborationist activity of representatives of the UOC (MP) in the occupied territories of Ukraine usually leads “upwards”, to the ruling bishops and their assistants – vicar bishops. However, often – and completely “undeservedly” – the “average” priests who systematically play the role of “gray cardinals” in one or another case or act as spokesmen in those issues that their superiors do not dare to voice publicly in order to avoid public condemnation and criminal prosecution. One of these “religious figures” is the secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP), Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin, who in just three years made a career “quantum leap” from an ordinary school history teacher to almost the position of “right hand” of the head of the diocese.
Oleksandr Yakushechkin was born on June 2, 1968 in Simferopol. In 1991, he graduated from the Faculty of History of the Simferopol State University named after M. V. Frunze (later Tavria National University named after V. I. Vernadskyi), which even during the decline of the USSR had the reputation of a “nursery of political tricks”. In 1991–1997, he taught at Simferopol School No. 13 and at the Konsol private school, which is associated with the construction company of the same name of the current “Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea” Volodymyr Konstantinov. In 1997, he was appointed a referent to the then archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea Lazarus (Svetsia), in 1998 – secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the Interdenominational Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea “Peace is a Gift of God”; in the same year, he was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Lazar, and then a priest. In 1999, Oleksandr Yakushechkin graduated from the Simferopol Theological School, the following year he was elevated to the rank of archpriest, and at the end of 2001 he was appointed rector of the Peter and Paul Cathedral of the UOC MP in Simferopol. In 2007, Yakushechkin joined the Collegium of the Committee of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on Land Resources and the Interdepartmental Commission of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on Overcoming the USSR’s Totalitarian Policy Regarding Religious Organizations, and in 2009 – the Collegium of the Republican Committee on Religious Affairs.
However, in the biography of this Crimean “holy father” (as well as in his leadership) there is another detail that few paid (or did not want to pay) attention to the Russian occupation of Crimea. In particular, currently the secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, which recently joined the “Crimean Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church”, Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin is a member of the board of the Crimean “regional branch” of the World Russian People’s Council (“Vsemirnyi Russkiy narodnyi sobor”, “VRNS”). This organization, which is headed by the charter of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, entitled “Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia”, has existed since 1993 and is the largest Russian public forum, the participants of which are united by “a single goal – concern for the present and future of Russia.” Representatives of the Russian government and law enforcement agencies, leaders of public associations, higher clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church, military commanders and servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces, teachers and students of the largest educational institutions of the Russian Federation, scientists and cultural figures, delegates of Russian communities from nearby and far abroad. The co-chairs of the Crimean “regional branch” of the “VRNS” are Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea, who became the head of the recently created “Crimean Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church”, and Bishop Nestor (Donenko) of Yalta, vicar bishop of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP.
To understand the activities of the Crimean “regional branch” of the “VRNS”, at least one fact can be mentioned. On March 10, 2020, during an extended meeting, its members called on parents of schoolchildren in occupied Crimea to “understand the special role of religions, primarily Orthodoxy, in the formation and development of Russian culture, civil society, and the statehood of Russia.” At the same time, the candidacy of Olena Aksyonova, the wife of the “Criminal President” Serhiy Aksyonov, head of the interregional NGO “Russian Unity”, was unanimously approved as a delegate from Crimea with the right to vote to participate in “VRNS”.
One and a half years after the Russian occupation of Crimea, Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin, together with Metropolitan Lazar, as well as the “Mufti of the Muslims of Crimea” Emirali Ablaev and his “first deputy” Ayder Ismailov, joined the “Public Coordination Council of the Republic of Crimea on Patriotic Education”, formed ” by decree” of the Crimean Gauleiter Serhiy Aksyonov. This council also included “Vice Prime Minister” Dmytro Polonskyi, who was considered the main curator of domestic policy in the “Republic”, “ministers” of culture (Arina Novoselska), education (Natalia Goncharova), sports, as well as the head of the regional headquarters of “Moloday Guards of “United Russia” Vladyslav Ganjara, etc. At the same time, in an interview with Russian journalists, Oleksandr Yakushechkin told how the current “head of Crimea” Serhii Aksyonov and the “speaker” of the Crimean “parliament” Volodymyr Konstantinov, even before the Russian occupation of Crimea, ran to Metropolitan Lazar for his blessing, when the now banned in Ukraine was created on the peninsula reactionary party “Russian Unity”.
At the same time, the secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP did not miss the opportunity to spit in the direction of the persecuted and disadvantaged Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, stating that it “had a chance to succeed” in Crimea during the presidential term of Viktor Yushchenko, when Ukraine “started to popularize the topics of the Ukrainian autocephalous church and the Holodomor” – which, in Yakushechkin’s opinion, “are interconnected, as they are directed against Russia” (!). In addition, the Crimean archpriest stated that the prayers in memory of the victims of the Holodomor, which is denied in every way by the current occupation regime, were held at the direction of the authorities – without specifying whether it was the central or regional authorities. However, any of the Crimean Ukrainian Christians, having laid their hand on the Gospel, is ready to testify: during the period of Ukrainian sovereignty over the peninsula, the Crimean authorities not only did not issue any orders regarding the holding of memorial services for the victims of the Holodomor-genocide – and could not do so in principle, since the church is separated from the state, and ignored similar measures initiated by the clergy and parishioners of Ukrainian churches in Crimea in every possible way.
In the same 2015, during the annual report of the “public chamber of the Republic of Crimea” on the state of civil society on the occupied peninsula, Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin, reporting on the activities of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, assured that it was carried out “in the national interests of the Russian Federation for the well-being of its citizens and society and with the aim of countering threats to the national security of the [occupier] country” and is aimed at “ensuring the fundamental internationally recognized rights of citizens – to freedom of conscience and religion”, as well as at “the preservation and development of historically formed religious traditions of the peoples of Russia”.
On November 16, 2016, during the plenary session at the beginning of the regional Christmas educational readings “Crimea. Lessons of the century. 1917 – 2017” in occupied Simferopol, Oleksandr Yakushechkin, with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, gave a speech devoted to the issue of educating young Crimeans as “patriots” and spiritual and moral personalities. According to his statements, before the Russian occupation of Crimea, local teachers “were forced to seriously discuss dubious slogans, cultivated far from our homeland” (that is, the Russian Federation), as well as “to twist and invent excuses why Crimean schools still speak Russian, do not celebrate the birthday of the OUN- UPA (?! – author), and there are no portraits of such odious heroes as Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich in the classrooms.” “But 2014 came, and we made our historic choice. Something happened that many could not even dream of. We returned home, to Russia, having shown everyone a worthy example of patriotism and spirituality,” the Crimean archpriest publicly boasted, calling the “spiritual, moral and patriotic education” of Crimean children and youth a “strategic issue of our survival as a country and as a people” and “a question national security”.
On October 23, 2018, Oleksandr Yakushechkin took part in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the “Russian Community of Kryma”, which took place at the Crimean Academic Music Theater, from the name of which the invaders removed the word “Ukrainian” after the occupation of Crimea. During the event, the secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP read to the audience the greetings of Metropolitan Lazar – who, by the way, has been among the honored guests of the cathedrals of the “community” for years, together with representatives of the Russian leadership, diplomatic and military structures, and blessed them for their work. “It is very comforting that the “community”, created a quarter of a century ago, throughout this time supported all those who were indifferent to the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of our great Motherland, who felt their “fellowship” with it, loved and contributed to its prosperity. Because the support of the “original” national traditions and culture, inextricably linked with the Orthodox faith of our predecessors – custodians and custodians of the “Land of Russia”, defenders and defenders of Orthodoxy – is a good and important thing,” the text said. After his performance, the archpriest brought to the stage the children’s ensemble “Petropavlivska pesnia”, which he nurtured, which performed the piece “Vozvraschenie Kryma” (“Return of Crimea”) with the chorus: “Мы русскиие, мы россияне, вернулис домой вместе с Крымом крымчане, и Западу русской душа” will never understand, and Russian land will never be taken away from anyone.”
In January 2019, to implement the action plan of the Synodal Department of Religious Education and Catechesis of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP to overcome difficulties in the organization of teaching “Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture” and to ensure a “free and informed” choice of modules of this course in the schools of occupied Crimea, according with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, a diocesan coordination council was created for interaction with the Crimean “educational management bodies”, “directors” of general education institutions, teachers and parents. This council was headed by the secretary of the diocese Oleksandr Yakushechkin. The topic “Basic Provisions of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church” was included in the thematic plan of the “School of the Orthodox Pedagogue”, which was supposed to take place in deacons.
In March 2019, during another attack by the Crimean “authorities” and media controlled by the occupiers on the Crimean Diocese of the OCU, Oleksandr Yakushechkin, secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, once again joined in its denigration. In a comment for the Kryminform news portal, he stated that several Crimean clerics, who “previously enrolled themselves in the schismatic Ukrainian church” (that is, in the OCU), allegedly switched to serving in the “canonical Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate” – at the same time refusing to name their names The Crimean Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church denied this slanderous statement, assuring that none of its clergy had converted to the UOC MP or any other denomination. Yakushechkin also said that the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP does not have any “official” contacts with representatives of the “Schismatic Church of Ukraine” (i.e. OCU), whose services and sacraments, like the entire local church, he called “invalid and graceless.” “It’s like artists, when they shoot a movie and hold a church service, it only looks like a church service in the frame. You should at least be interested, if you are thinking about the salvation of your soul, whether you are falling into a trap. Before entering any religious institution, one should ask oneself whether this temple is a canonical church,” said the secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP. Oleksandr Yakushechkin also publicly thanked God for the fact that there are practically no OCU churches in the occupied Crimea, and the existing ones “can be counted on the fingers of one hand”, and reproached the Crimean Eparchy of the OCU for “absence in the legal field of the Russian Federation” due to the refusal to re-register under the legislation of the occupying state. Measures taken by the Crimean “authorities” to deprive the Crimean Diocese of the OCU of the premises of the diocesan administration and the cathedral in the name of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Volodymyr and Princess Olga in Simferopol, which before the Russian occupation of Crimea were in a long-term lease for a symbolic payment of one hryvnia per year, through illegal Yakushechkin called the termination of the lease agreement, forced eviction and requisition and damage to the property of the diocese “insinuations” and explained them by the fact that “an organization that does not exist, which refuses to exist in the legal field of the Russian Federation”, and therefore “simply cannot conduct its religious activities” . In a word, the classic excuses of a rapist, whose victim is always “to blame”.
On May 3, 2019, Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin, Secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese, together with Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol, Crimean Lazar, Bishop Nestor of Yalta, Vicar of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, Archpriests Bohdan Severyn and Ioann Shimon, deacons of the 1st and 2nd Simferopol deacons, and other priests of Simferopol churches, as well as with the “head of the Republic of Crimea” Serhii Aksyonov and others took part in the meeting of the leading icon of the main temple of the armed forces of the Russian Federation “Savior Not Made by Hand”, which was brought for honoring from Sevastopol to Simferopol, accompanied by the then commander of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, Admiral Oleksandr Moiseev.
On June 4, 2019, a solemn opening ceremony of the XIII “international” propaganda festival “The Great Russian Word” took place in the “Yuvileiny” movie concert complex in occupied Yalta, which was attended by the chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko, “chairman of the Republic of Crimea” Serhii Aksyonov, “chairman ” of the Crimean “parliament” Volodymyr Konstantinov, Metropolitan Lazar of the Simferopol and Crimean UOC MP, Vicar of the Diocese of Simferopol and Crimea Bishop Nestor of Yalta, Secretary of the Diocese Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin, members of the Federation Council and deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, members of the Government of the Russian Federation, public and political figures of the Russian Federation and territories occupied by it, representatives of “local self-government bodies”, etc.
On June 26, 2020, Oleksandr Yakushechkin, the press secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine, took part in an illegal vote for amendments to the constitution of the occupying state.
On March 18, 2021, during a meeting of Vladimir Putin with public representatives of the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol via video conference, Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin thanked the head of the occupying state for “attention to the spiritual and moral revival of our society” and for “patronage” of the restoration of the cathedral Alexander Nevsky Cathedral of the UOC MP in Simferopol, as well as for the decree adopted in 2014 on the celebration of the 800th anniversary of Prince Alexander Nevsky as “a saint of our Russian land”. “It is on the example of such historical figures that we should educate our youth, build the future of our state,” he added, also congratulating Putin on the “holiday – the day of the Crimean spring.” “The fact that a new state award, the Saint Luke [Voino-Yasenetsky] medal, was established very recently is evidence that our Motherland is developing in the right direction,” Yakushechkin said. In addition, the secretary of the Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP said that the residents of the occupied Crimea would very much like to know the answer to the question of when they will be able to receive medical services “in accordance with the high federal standards that exist in our country”, and asked “the state support of the social service that our Holy Orthodox Church is developing.” “We have in Crimea the Society of Orthodox Doctors of St. Luke. And it has been working for more than 20 years. There are similar societies in other dioceses of our Russian Orthodox Church,” said Yakushechkin, thus making it completely clear that the representatives of the Crimean branches of the UOC MP consider the Russian Federation to be their state and openly recognized themselves as part of the Russian Orthodox Church even before the creation of its “Crimean Metropolis” through annexation of the Crimean dioceses of the UOC MP.
On September 13, 2021, Oleksandr Yakushechkin, secretary of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, publicly called on residents of occupied Crimea to participate in illegal voting in the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. “Parishioners are citizens of our country, so don’t forget to cast your vote in order to preserve the future of the motherland exactly as you want it,” he said then, referring to the Russian Federation.
On December 15, 2021, during the regular “parliamentary meetings of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea” as part of the “regional stage” of the Russian XXX International Christmas educational readings “To the 350th anniversary of the birth of Peter I: the secular world and religiosity”, Archpriest Oleksandr Yakushechkin, known before as a laureate of the “state award of the Republic of Crimea” received from the hands of the “Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea” Volodymyr Konstantinov the “honorary title of “Honored Education Worker of the Republic of Crimea” – for “great personal contribution to the preservation of spiritual and moral values, strengthening of inter-religious peace and charitable activities”.