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At the beginning of the summer of this year, a few months after the start of the full-scale armed aggression of Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church did what it had not dared to do for eight years: then the secular authorities of the Russian Federation carried out the actual annexation of the occupied Crimean peninsula – now the spiritual authority of the occupying state, which in fact is division of the secular, completed this process with church annexation, when the three Crimean dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, together with the Moscow Patriarchate, were directly subordinated to the Russian Orthodox Church. Although the Crimean clerics of the mentioned church were under the jurisdiction of Kyiv all the time of the occupation of the peninsula purely nominally – being de facto under the power of Moscow and continuously following the path of collaborationism with the power of the occupying state and its Crimean puppets. Among these clerics, the figure of the current Yalta bishop Nestor (Mykola Donenko) has recently become too noticeable.
The archbishop of the “Crimean Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church” recently created by Moscow Patriarch Kirill was born on February 20, 1958 in Berdyansk, which is currently under occupation by Russian troops. From the age of 16, he constantly visited the church. Studied at the Republican Art School named after T. G. Shevchenko in Kyiv, joining the circle of “church youth”, from which many ROC ministers in high positions have emerged over time. After graduating from the sculpture department of the Kharkiv Art and Industrial Institute, he worked as a sculptor at the Simferopol Art Fund. Since 1983, he has been a reader in the Holy Trinity Cathedral. In 1990, he joined the National Union of Artists of Ukraine. In 1991, he was ordained first as a deacon, and then as a priest. After obedience in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Simferopol, in 1993 he was appointed abbot of the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God in the village of Oreanda in the south of Crimea, and in the same year he was elevated to the rank of archpriest. In 1996, he graduated from the Odessa Theological Seminary, already at that time a member of the Synodal Commission of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church on issues of canonization of new martyrs and confessors of the 20th century. He had good relations with Bishop Vasily (Zlatolinsky), who from the end of 1990 to June 1992 was the bishop of Simferopol and Crimea, in 1992-1997 he was the bishop, and in 1997-2009 he was the archbishop of Zaporozhye and Melitopol. himself harassed and insulted by the “Western mafia” in the UOC-MP and surrounded by ideological opponents of the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church and supporters of Russian Orthodoxy.
Even before the Russian occupation of Crimea, in 2013, Archpriest Mykola Donenko joined the Writers’ Union of Russia – which is not surprising, given his long-standing membership in the Russian international public organization “World Russian People’s Council”, which is headed by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and which also includes Patriarch Kirill Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea. In general, Fr. Mykola Donenko rarely appeared in public, being more engaged in historical works, teaching at the Taurian Theological Seminary, or directly in priestly ministry. However, one interesting fact emerged at the beginning of 2017, when the activists of the “Cyberalliance” made public the sixth part of the hacked correspondence of the leader of the Russian “Association of Orthodox Experts” Kirill Frolov with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church and the administration of the President of the Russian Federation for 2013, before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war. In particular, it contained a letter from Serhiy Tkachuk, the secretary of the adviser to the President of the Russian Federation on integration within the framework of the Customs Union, Serhii Glazyev, with a request to Frolov to send a list of “good and reliable network of Russian compatriots” in Ukraine, which could be connected with the infamous organization ” Ukrainian choice”. Archpriest Mykola Donenko, whom Frolov publicly praised back in 2010, was mentioned in the provided list along with some clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 2014, Archpriest Mykola Donenko became a laureate of the non-state all-Russian award “Keepers of Heritage”, which is awarded for “outstanding services to the motherland in the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of the Russian Federation”, in the nomination “Service”, and the following year – a laureate of the “state award of the Republic of Crimea » for the books “Yalta – the city of fun and death” and “New Martyrs of Feodosia”. At least since 2016, he has been mentioned as a member of the Union of Artists of Russia. In 2017 and 2018, respectively, Fr. Mykola Donenko received the Order of Prince Volodymyr III degree and the Order of Saint Dmitry of Rostov.
The main period of activity of Archpriest Mykola Donenko begins on June 13, 2018, when he took monastic vows in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Simferopol and received a new name – Nestor. On the same day, he published his interview for the “People of the Russian Federation” project on his own YouTube channel, in which he mentioned his lawyer father – “a special person, with special tolerances”, as well as his studies in a special school and his “girlfriend” – the daughter of a KGB colonel. At the same time, native Berdyansk Fr. Nestor called it a “multinational town, typical for the south of Russia.”
On June 17, 2018, Fr. Nestor was elevated to the rank of Archimandrite. On September 27, 2018, in the Church of the Assumption of the Holy Assumption of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, according to the decision of the Holy Synod of the UOC MP and at the request of Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea, he was ordained a vicar bishop of the Diocese of Simferopol and Crimea with the title of “Yalta”. In his speech after the episcopal ordination, the head of the UOC MP, Metropolitan Onufriy, noted that the new bishop is known as a scientist and publisher of many books about the holy new martyrs, whose blood watered the land of “our earthly Motherland.” However, in open sources, Nestor Donenko is usually indicated as an expert in the canonization of new martyrs and confessors of the Russian Orthodox Church who suffered in the 1920s-1950s; many of them were glorified as saints at the “jubilee” cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2000. “You have long served in this diocese (Simferopol and Crimea – author) and you know the local realities of life well. Obey your metropolitan in everything and do nothing without his blessing,” Metropolitan Onufriy instructed the new bishop.
Attention is also drawn to the fact that the episcopal ordination of Archimandrite Nestor took place at 6 o’clock in the morning, without an announcement and the usual internet broadcast, with publication in the journals of the UOC MP Synod “retroactively”, and as much as two years after the decision on the appointment of a vicar for Metropolitan Lazar.
On November 21, 2018, after the Holy Procession, Bishop Nestor preached a sermon during the festive service in the Garrison Sevastopol Church in honor of Archangel Michael, which is the main church of the occupying Black Sea Front of the Russian Federation, saying the following, among other things: “War in this world never stops, evil and spirits heavenly malice is always on the lookout to devour every Christian. You and I must be good warriors and resist the enemies of the truth, have the Word of God as a very sharp and powerful weapon and fight for our soul, resist external darkness, lies and substitution, everything and everyone who wants to take away from us our originality, our faith and the truth, grace and church that Christ gave us. When we prayerfully turn to the heavenly warrior, we only enter into military operations, into power relations with external and internal enemies who resist us, and the essence of evil through us resists God. We are citizens of heaven, our absolute homeland is the Kingdom of Heaven. But we can enter it only through the local church (obviously, the Russian Orthodox Church is meant – author) – just as we can enter eternity only through our Russian history, in which we were born, in which the Lord placed us from the beginning and in which we we have to go through our life path (emphasis ours – author’s). A person with the consciousness of defeat has one horizon – and a person who has tasted victories, not only military, economic, intellectual or social, but spiritual victories, has a completely different horizon. We will learn to win according to the truth of Christ, to win always, at any time and at every hour, in order to enter the Glory of God and unite with the joy of Christ’s love in His Divine Kingdom.” It is surprising how the “Christ-loving Russian army”, after listening to the “Father”, did not take up arms at the same moment and set out for Perekop – for the glory of God and according to His truth, to win a spiritual and physical victory over the “fascist external enemy”, who decided to break away from of the Moscow “kingdom of heaven and earth” and to go to the Lord in one’s own way, and not to confess to Him through employees of the Russian special services in cassocks. However, as we can see, such sermons laid the foundations of the justifications for the full-scale armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which began at the end of February 2022.
Similarly, in November 2018, Bishop Nestor gave an interview “about nothing” to the correspondent of the Russian chauvinist Internet portal “Ukraine.Ru”, demonstrating a sample of metaphysical verbiage. His speech in mid-January 2019 in the multimedia press center of MIA “Russia Today” in occupied Simferopol during a press conference on “Orthodoxy in modern conditions: problems, threats, opportunity for dialogue” had a similar character, which became a reaction on the proclamation of the local Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and receiving from it a tomos on autocephaly from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew – however, this time Bishop Nestor, who took part in the said event with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, resorted to great-power-imperial rhetoric. The usually calm, intelligent vicar of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church then broke up not jokingly, claiming that there had been a “split” in Ukrainian Orthodoxy (despite the fact that the participation in the Unification Cathedral on December 15, 2018 in Kyiv, which was proclaimed by the OCU, taken by representatives of the UOC KP, UAOC and UOC MP), and calling the formation of the OCU “totally uncanonical, brutal, politically very low-quality and offensive provocation”, while declaring that the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church “is under the complete influence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and not is independent” – in contrast to the UOC MP, which even today remains a constituent part of the Russian Orthodox Church, despite its declarative separation from it. Guided by the logic of the “Istanbul” (i.e. Ecumenical) patriarch, Bishop Nestor suggested that the “democratic” Russian Federation, which he unequivocally considers his state, “return” Poland and Finland, as well as “revoke” the sovereignty of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Baltic countries and “zero” The Białowieża Agreements, which declared the end of the existence of the USSR. It seems that the ideas voiced by Bishop Nestor did not originate in his head, because today they are already being directly controlled by the aggressor state, threatening to cancel its decisions regarding the recognition of the independence of Ukraine and the Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Condescendingly “assuming” the existence of the Ukrainian national soul, Bishop Nestor called it “split into Orthodoxy and Uniatism, not to mention the huge number of Protestant sects.” Calling the occupied Crimea “part of the Russian Federation”, he assured that the local parishes of the UOC MP “are protected, unlike Ukraine, have the support of the state and political power, the guarantor of the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and confessional adequacy” – at the same time, referring to the occupying state and its power, and called the Russian Federation “the spiritual and moral tuning fork of the modern world, which has the ultimate task: to be a witness to the truth – both a thousand years ago, and today, and in the centuries to come.”
After this press conference, Bishop Nestor scared the readers of “Krymska Gazeta” by “shaking the foundations of spiritual and national existence” in Ukraine, which is “changing its appearance”: “The new split will bear its bitter fruits, it will affect millions of people. Obviously, this will be a serious test of spiritual and national identity, of the ability <…> to remain in the bosom of the mother church (here again the Russian Orthodox Church is meant – author) despite various difficulties.” Soon, on January 27, together with the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, he co-served with Patriarch Kirill in the Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Savior during the liturgy before the start of the XXVII International Christmas Educational Readings.
On February 23, 2019, to the Russian Defender of the Fatherland Day, at the location of the 810th Guards Marine Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in occupied Sevastopol, with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, Bishop Nestor, in cooperation with local priests of the UOC MP, solemnly consecrated a church in honor of the “holy and faithful” Prince Alexander Nevsky, having distributed orders of the Russian Orthodox Church to its patrons who had arrived from Moscow.
On April 16, 2019, the “III Congress of Heads of Educational Institutions of the Republic of Crimea” “Spiritual and Moral Education and Upbringing in the Formation of a Unified Educational Space of the School, Region, Crimea” was held at the Simferopol Music School named after P. I. Tchaikovsky, which was attended by representatives of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP and the local “authority”. In particular, during the event, Bishop Nestor devoted his speech to the issues of the mission of a modern teacher and the personal responsibility of parents, teachers and priests for the education of the younger generation “in the spirit of the traditions of Russia, Crimea, and the family.” Soon, on May 3, 2019, he, together with Metropolitan Lazar and priests of the Simferopol and Crimean dioceses of the UOC MP, met in Simferopol the leading icon of the main temple of the armed forces of the Russian Federation “Savior Not Made by Hands”, who arrived from Sevastopol accompanied by the then commander of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, Admiral Oleksandr Moiseyev. Exactly one month ago, Bishop Nestor took part in a meeting on the topic “Increasing the role of national-cultural public and religious organizations in strengthening the unity of the multi-ethnic people of Russia”, which was held by the head of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matvienko, as part of the “V International Humanitarian Livadia Forum”; the next day, June 4, he also participated in the solemn opening ceremony of the propaganda “XIII International Festival “Great Russian Word” in occupied Yalta.
In the autumn of 2019, a scandal gained new strength in Simferopol with the development of the area on which, according to assumptions, the medieval palace complex of the second most important person in the Crimean Khanate – Kalgi-Sultan, consisting of 1800 buildings, could be located, was built, according to assumptions, in the last quarters of the 15th – at the beginning of the 16th century, destroyed, partially restored and finally destroyed during the capture of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Empire in the 1770s and 80s. the chapel In the Simferopol and Crimean eparchy, the UOC MP said that they had nothing to do with the construction of the latter and that it “is being carried out without the blessing of the ruling bishop.” At the same time, the vicar of the diocese, Bishop Nestor of Yalta, said that similar things in the occupied Crimea should be done exclusively “on the basis of the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church and within the limits of the legislation of the Russian Federation.”
On November 20, 2019, Bishop Nestor led the delegation of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, which arrived in Moscow to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of Patriarch Kirill and the 50th anniversary of his monastic tonsure. Soon, on November 29, he took part in the “parliamentary meetings” held in occupied Simferopol as part of the “regional” stage of the XXVIII Russian International Christmas Educational Readings entitled “The Great Victory: Heritage and Heirs”, emphasizing in his speech the “fundamental role education and upbringing in the formation of spirituality and patriotism of the younger generation”.
On July 21, 2020, with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar, Bishop Nestor held a weekly meeting with the heads of relevant departments of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, during which the question of compiling a register of cultural heritage monuments of the occupied Crimea was considered for their further inclusion in the general register of the Moscow Patriarchate.
At the beginning of October 2020, Bishop Nestor in Sevastopol delivered a congratulatory address from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, to the Russian official Mykhailo Razvozhaev on the occasion of his “ascension to the post of governor” of the occupied city, with which he personally congratulated him. On October 23, during a meeting of the fake “United Dissertation Council D 999.218.02”, created on the basis of the Chechen State Pedagogical University and the “Crimean Federal University named after V. I. Vernadsky”, the vicar of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP defended a dissertation for obtaining a scientific degree of Candidate of Pedagogical Sciences on the topic “Educational activity and didactic legacy of Fadei (Uspensky)”. Lyudmila Redkina – “Head of the Department of Pedagogy and Management of Educational Institutions” of the Yalta “Humanities and Pedagogical Academy”, which is a “branch” of the “Crimean Federal University” acted as the scientific supervisor.
On December 1, 2020, in Sevastopol, Bishop Nestor, with the blessing of Metropolitan Lazar of Simferopol and Crimea, consecrated a chapel in the name of Prince Andriy Bogolyubsky in the military unit of the 4th regiment of radiation, chemical and biological protection troops of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, wishing the occupation soldiers “to find joy and meaning in their lives, internal spiritual victories and overcoming difficulties that exist in the life of every person”.
In 2021, Bishop Nestor received the Order of Saint Luke of Crimea and the Jubilee Medal “50 Years of Autonomy of the Japanese Orthodox Church”. After the death on November 16, 2021 of Metropolitan Alipiy of Dzhankoy and Rozdollensky due to a serious illness, the head of the UOC MP, Metropolitan Onufriy, appointed Bishop Nestor to temporarily manage the Dzhankoy Diocese; he performed these duties until the appointment at the end of 2021 of the former abbot of the Intercession Church of the UOC MP in Zhytomyr as bishop of Dzhankoy and Rosdolensky, Fr. Oleksii Ovsyannikova. In the meantime, Bishop Nestor, together with Metropolitan Lazar and another vicar of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP, Bishop Kalinik (Chernyshov) of Bakhchisarai, congratulated Patriarch Kirill on his 75th birthday as a “novice with filial humility.”
On December 15, 2021, “parliamentary meetings” were held for the sixth time in 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”, during which ” Chairman of the State Council” Volodymyr Konstantinov gave out “awards” to those present for “a great personal contribution to the preservation of spiritual and moral values, strengthening of interfaith peace and charitable activities”. In particular, Bishop Nestor received a “certificate from the Presidium of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea”. In general, the participants of the event turned to the government, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the occupying state with a number of requests and recommendations, including calling to “continue the spiritual and military-patriotic education of the youth based on the traditional values of the Russian people, examples of military achievements, preservation of historical memory “Yati of the peoples of Russia”. The day before, on December 12, Bishop Nestor visited his native Berdyansk, where he took part in a joint liturgy with the Archbishop of Berdyansk and Primorye Efrem (Yarynk) in the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ. Then, as usual when visiting mainland Ukraine, one of the Crimean preachers of the “Russian peace” bypassed “uncomfortable” questions from representatives of the competent services.
On May 27, 2022, Bishop Nestor took part in the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church held in Kyiv, in a videoconference mode, as part of the delegation of the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese, whose members, led by Metropolitan Lazar, voted unanimously against the adoption of the resolution and proposed amendments to the Statute on the Management of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Russian Orthodox Church and declared that they remain “under the omophorion of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.” On June 7, 2022, a regular meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church was held in the Patriarchal and Synodal Residence in the St. Daniel’s Monastery in Moscow under the leadership of its head, Patriarch Kirill, during which the “acceptance” of three Crimean dioceses of the UOC MP into “direct canonical and administrative subordination” to the Moscow Patriarch and to the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and the formation on their basis of the “Crimean Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church” headed by Metropolitan Lazar. After that, on the air of the program “5th Studio” on the TV channel “Russia 24”, Bishop Nestor called this event “a confirmation and deepening of what has always been”: they say, the Simferopol and Crimean Diocese of the UOC MP “has always been in the canonical space” of the ROC and was “obedient” to its head, Patriarch Kirill – even when he actually blessed the full-scale armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.