Heaven is high and the tsar is far

I shouldn’t find this extraordinary, after the last three years, but I do.

Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian politician and oligarch who keeps a photo of Russian president Putin on his office wall, has been supposedly working on freeing prisoners from the east Ukraine war, for three years – independently of the Minsk humanitarian sub-group, which has also been supposedly working on freeing prisoners for the last almost three years under the terms of the Minsk agreement signed in February 2015, which calls for “release and exchange of all hostages and illegally held persons, based on the principle of “all for all”.”

This week Medvedchuk meets Putin in a monastery, and a dialogue reminiscent of a scene from an instructive medieval pageant in which the humble serf appeals to the magnanimity of the tsar, is reported on the Kremlin’s official site:

Medvedchuk: Vladimir Vladimirovich, can I appeal to you with a plea concerning hundreds of people […] The situation is such that today it is 14 months since there have been any exchanges. You know I’ve been engaged in the matter of exchanges since 2014, and the reason for this situation is that, according to the Minsk agreements, exchanges should be made according to the formula of “all for all”. Ukraine currently has difficulties implementing this principle, since objectively in accordance with current legislation, it is impossible to implement this principle with respect to all individuals, primarily regarding those charged with serious crimes. 

Nevertheless […] today Ukraine is ready to release 306 people, counting on the liberation by Donetsk and Lugansk of 74 people, and this could be done by the New Year and Christmas celebrations. That is why I would like to ask you to use your authority, show humanity, and request the heads of the unrecognised republics […] to carry out this exchange […] If I may, I would like to appeal to you with this request.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill: Vladimir Vladimirovich, I would really like to support this request. I have discussed this issue with you and know that you take the fate of people to heart. His beatitude Metropolitan Onuphrius [head of the Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine] has also repeatedly addressed me with requests, and, as you know, some requests were satisfied, some were not. That’s why the role of the Church in such conflicts is, of course, primarily humanitarian. The fate of people, people suffer, people are victims of this awful conflict, which really causes so many to suffer. Therefore, for my part I would also like to ask you to support this idea, and through our joint efforts, maybe everyone could bring this wonderful event to pass. 

V Putin: I will do everything that depends on me, I will talk with the leadership of both Donetsk and Lugansk republics. I hope that what you propose will be realized as soon as possible.

[Exit tsar in a magnanimous swirl of robes; patriarch caresses his priceless solid gold cross and signs for hordes of lesser priests and monks to start singing the magnificat; humble representative of the common man (who also happens to be an oligarch whose child happens to have the tsar as a godfather) backs out crossing himself devoutly. And millions throughout the land religiously watching TV sigh and say God bless our ruler.]

Don’t get me wrong – if this gets those prisoners finally freed after almost three years; if because of this Kolya and Sasha and Ruslan and Bohdan and all the others finally get to come home and spend Christmas with their families – then who cares about the play-acting. Who cares about the sour taste in the mouth. Who cares about why I find this extraordinary, whether it reminds me of a humiliating scene a year or so ago when a renowned Russian film director publicly begged Putin to have mercy and pardon Ukrainian Oleg Sentsov (sentenced by Russia on clearly political grounds to 20 years for ‘terrorism’) – literally begged; a grown, educated, respected man in his 50s, not demanding that a president elected by, and therefore accountable to, the population address an abuse of justice, but pleading that the divinely-appointed tsar take the fate of a lowly peasant to heart and have mercy.


Tsar Sultan, by Ivan Bilibin



2 Responses to “Heaven is high and the tsar is far”

  1. 1 emilymbrown13 November 16, 2017 at 11:54 am

    ‘Like’ seems an odd response to this! x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

previous posts

A novel about the Crimean Tatars' return to their homeland


%d bloggers like this: