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Priest Kanstantsin Burykin, known as ‘Father with swastikas’ is just a symptom of the big problems faced by the Orthodox Church in Belarus, said Pavel Sevyarynets, a former political prisoner and co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party.
“We should launch a campaign and ask hard questions, e.g. who is really responsible for the fact that the priest in the Orthodox Church propagated Nazism,” he believes.
Until recently, Burykin, a Russian citizen and native of Russia’s Omsk, has been a star of Belarusian state-run TV. Firstly, as a priest who never got theological education but headed a church in the village of Hatava near Minsk.
“I was burning with the desire to build a church. I wanted to start it from scratch,” he recalled.
Secondly, Burykin established a sports club affiliated with the church and actually led the Belarusian Powerlifting Federation – he was deputy chairman of its nominal head, Police Colonel Henadz Kalesnik. Burykin promoted family values and a healthy lifestyle.
But in November, Belarusians learned about other values of Father Kanstanstin. Burykin was arrested by the Investigative Committee for illegal actions with regard to ammunition. According to independent journalists’ information, Burykin wasted budget funds allocated to sport activities and never backtracked his neo-Nazi views. Previously, he was a priest of the Belarusian branch of the Russian National Unity (RNE), a neo-Nazi organization. There are at least three swastika tattoos on Burykin’s body. The Orthodox priest maintained close contact with pro-Kremlin imperial organizations – directly from the church in Hatava.
“We support the movement ‘Fraternal Path’, ‘Russian Jogging’. We support and bless them,” Burykin said in a video filmed 4 years ago.
Moreover, it emerged that there is chandelier in the shape of swastika and a picture Burykin painted in the style of the Third Reich in his flat. Local parishioners are still in shock:
“And we had our child baptized there. What is going to happen now?”
“No one could even suspect him of such things! He is always cultural and polite, he always answered my questions when I went to confession.”
“A priest must not be engaged in shady dealings! First of all, he is a priest. Arms and a priest are inconsistent.”
According to Pavel Sevyarynets, such cases are not uncommon in some dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church where the so-called ‘Russian World’ blooms and hostility to the Belarusian language and independence is incited:
“Such ‘Fathers’ may be at disposal of Russian-backed separatists who come here, sow the seeds of hatred and order to prepare for a war.”
For example, in Vyalikaye Stsikleva not far Minsk, pro-Russian center ‘Cossacks’ Salvation‘ organized a training camp for youngsters straight on the church lands. Its participants, teenagers aged 14-18 years, learned how to shoot and deal with mines and knives.
“We have a body-conditioning programme and teach skills of weapons disassembly-assembly,” Pyotr Shapko, Cossacks’ Salvation director, said.
The local priests helps Mr Shapko in the psychological andd ideological indoctrination of the youth.
“The deacon of our church told them about Lives of Saints, there are icons of saint warriors and martyrs in the church,” Shapko stressed.
Similarly, with the assistance of Otrhodox Church deacons, Russian neo-Nazis – militants of the unrecognised Donetsk and Luhansk republics – organized camps for Belarusian teenagers in the country’s Vitsebsk region.
Yaraslau Stseshyk/MS, Belsat.eu