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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Christian Green Party Gets Red Light




A Christian Green party that was supposed to have been born Wednesday in the Kremlin turned out to be stillborn.


What was billed as the inaugural congress of the ambitiously named All-Citizens Christian Union failed even to take place, and hundreds of would-be Russian Christian Democrats who had been invited to the congress were left standing outside the Kremlin gates.


The affair ended in complete scandal for the obscure organizers, who had given the impression that their endeavor was supported by President Vladimir Putin's administration and the Moscow Patriarchate.


It appeared that either the organizers never had such backing and were going ahead with their project in hopes of getting it, or that the Patriarchate and the Kremlin realized the Christian ecological movement was going nowhere and withdrew whatever support there had been.


Organizers said the new movement would fill a void in the political spectrum f of a conservative non-communist party f and provide further ideological and institutional support for Putin's government.


People who had been invited to the congress f members of small Christian and nationalist organizations, ecological activists, reporters and men dressed in real and handmade generals' uniforms f were stopped outside the Kremlin's Kutafya Tower. Many could barely contain their anger.


"I suspect that the organizers wanted to get publicity and collect sponsors' money, using the names of the president and patriarch," said monarchist activist and suspended cleric Hieromonk Nikon Belavenets.


"They needed to fill the hall and sent out unlimited invitations to all sorts of organizations barely related to Christianity," he said. "But they needed the public only as extras [as in a movie]. Otherwise, they would be here with us protesting this."


Half an hour after the congress was supposed to open in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, the executive secretary of the movement, Yury Pimoshenko, appeared from inside the Kremlin to announce that it had been postponed "for technical reasons."


"As soon as possible, we will explain the situation and you will be notified of the time and place of the congress," Pimoshenko said through a police loudspeaker.


In private conversations, people who work for the organizers blamed the presidential administration and "apparat games," but none would speak publicly. The organizers themselves gave vague, conflicting explanations and cast blame on each other.


"Last night we brought in the backdrop, [copies of the] program, set up the rows [of chairs]," said the movement's chief ideologist, Igor Podzigun, by telephone Wednesday. It was Pimoshenko, he said, who was responsible for relations with the Kremlin. "They say a command came at midnight [not to allow the Christian delegates in].


"We have spent serious money; we lost a lot," said Podzigun, a former commercial director of ORT television.


Pimoshenko, however, said later in the day that it was the organizers themselves who decided the night before to "postpone" the congress. "We ended up unprepared," Pimoshenko said by telephone. "The manifesto was poorly prepared, other things were not ready." He said the congress was now planned for February.


Pimoshenko said the organizers spent about $30,000. But the source of the funding was murky.


Podzigun said last week that all funding was coming from Ivan Mazur, chairman of the board of Rosneftegazstroi, which builds oil and gas pipelines. Mazur also describes himself as an ecologist.


But Mazur, who only recently expressed his support for the movement, said Wednesday he had given no money at all to Pimoshenko or Podzigun.


Mazur sai d he did not even come Wednesday to the Kremlin. "I have good information f I have the second and first vertushka [top-level internal government telephone lines]," he said.


But he refused to point fingers at the Kremlin for canceling the congress. "Who is in charge of the Kremlin Palace? Call them," Mazur said.


"I support our authorities and the president f write that down."


The presidential press service said it had no comment on the failure of the congress. The Patriarchate said it had nothing to do with the congress, Itar-Tass reported. Earlier, a Patriarchate official had said the church would cooperate with the new movement but would not give it exclusive political support.


Wednesday's scandal indicates the Kremlin has become much more selective in who is allowed to convene in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. In the early 1990s, Seko Asahara's Aum Shinryko sect and the Scientologists held events in the Kremlin, which they later publicized as proof of their triumphs in Russia. During last year's parliamentary campaign, the All-Russian Party of Pensioners held a congress in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, the video images of which f remarkably resembling Soviet-era Communist Party congresses in the same building f became the centerpiece of the party's campaign ads.


Vladimir Osipov, a Soviet-era political prisoner who leads a small nationalist monarchist group, had hoped to attend the congress.


"Many people f Christians, patriots f sympathize with Putin for his steps to strengthen the state," he said. "But these organizers turned out to be nobodies. Instead of explaining to people what happened, they simply hid."


"What a shame!" said another would-be participant, political analyst Alexander Morozov. "A group of swindlers managed to sell the idea of uniting ecological and Christians values to a number of journalists and Christian activists. Today it turned out that there is nothing behind it. I am convinced that this project was started by these swindlers with the sole purpose of finagling the sponsors out of money. Now it should be forgotten about forever."