Kiev’s silence on Hagia Sophia transformation may symbolize another Ukraine Orthodox crisis

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

On July 26, the St. Michael Square in Kiev hosted a mass prayer. The service that gathered over 1000 Christians in the St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery, was marked with a severe criticism of Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kiev and All Ukraine. The Metropolitan was blamed for having no reaction over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to transform the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Indeed, while the Russian Orthodox Church has openly criticized the decision of the Turkish President, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine along with the Greek Autocephalous Church (based in Istanbul) have been surprisingly silent over the important Erdogan’s move. For instance, Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said Erdogan’s decision was a «slap in the face» to all Christian world. «We believe that in the current conditions this act is an unacceptable violation of religious freedom», Hilarion added.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, based in Istanbul and the spiritual leader of around 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world, only said that converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque would disappoint Christians and would «fracture» East and West.

No reaction from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine on the historical event may lead to certain changes and Metropolitan Epiphanius may soon be removed. Alternatively, the new head of the Kiev and All Ukraine may become Metropolitan Symeon (Shostacky) who has a huge support of former Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. Known for being in high favor with Poroshenko, Symeon hosted multiple ceremonies with the former Ukrainian President. Earlier in 2018 Symeon was a Poroshenko’s nominee for the Metropolitan of the Ukrainan Church.

The transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque has sparked a huge debate across religious and cultural organizations worldwide. Despite high criticism of the Turkish President’s decision by UNESCO, EU leaders and the Christian Church, the Court in Turkey approved the Erdogan’s decree. On July 24, Hagia Sophia hosted first Islamic prayers in 86 years. The ceremony was opened by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and gathered over 350 000 Muslims.

GMIS-2019: global industry and economy leaders meet in the industrial heart of Russia

The Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS-2019) was held in Yekaterinburg from July, 9 through July, 11. GMIS-2019 business program included more than 40 events, business breakfasts, panels sessions on global business priorities, dialogues with global industry leaders, seminars and presentations. GMIS-2019 discussions focused on topics such as digital transformation and green technologies, smart cities, the development of low-carbon production, safety in industrial automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

The GMIS opening ceremony started with the welcome speech of Badr AlOlama, Head of the Organising Committee for GMIS who said: “Nature should continue inspiring us on our path of technological innovation and transformation in the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This will allow for clean air, water, food, and quality of life to be sustained for generations to come. We are proud to announce our second global initiative that is inspired by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and his vision of using sustainable and eco-friendly solutions that are inspired by nature. We look forward to the realisation of this global vision in partnership with academia, the start-up community, and the manufacturing sector.”

Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, said: “Synchronization of GMIS with the main industrial exhibition INNOPROM makes the 2 events an effective platform for strengthening international industrial cooperation, a unique discussion platform for the joint identification of actual problems of industrialization.”

“Russia’s desire to develop a modern manufacturing sector using 4IR technologies makes it an ideal venue for GMIS in 2019,” said Suhail Mohammed Faraj Al Mazroui , Minister of Energy and Industry of the United Arab Emirates.According to the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Lee Yong, “the 4th Industrial revolution will affect all of us, and expert discussions on these issues at GMIS can ensure a course for sustainable development”.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said: “I am convinced that ensuring clean air, water, food, and quality of life and life expectancy for billions of people requires drastically new technologies and technical devices, which are less resource-intensive but much more eco-friendly. Such uber efficient scientific engineering, manufacturing solutions will allow us to strike a proper balance between bio and techno spheres. This includes the so-called nature-inspired technologies. They imitate natural processes and systems. They follow the laws of nature. I believe that in our era of tectonic changes and uncertainty, the priority for us are the intrinsic values, the creation of better opportunities for life and development of people. This great responsibility lies with us for the future of our planet and we need to work together.”

The summit was held at the newly-built Congress Centre. The modern design and the infrastructure of the 42,000m2 Congress Centre was mentioned by the  UNIDO head Li Yong as well as other high-profile guests. The Congress Centre accommodates conference halls, a media centre, art gallery, exhibition space, seminar rooms and lounges. It will become a major venue, presenting the widest diversity of exhibitions and events that will support the economic, industrial and cultural vitality of the city and region of Ekaterinburg.

GMIS-2019 will drive the Fourth industrial revolution

The GMIS-2019 is about to take off on July, 9. The summit is a joint venue of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Arab Emirates. Russia provides great opportunities for the development of industry and high technology. The UNIDO head Li Yong has repeatedly given positive assessments of the close cooperation of the international organization and Russia. The cooperation includes Russia’s support of participation in large-scale industrialization programs in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, which contribute to a positive image in these regions. Besides, Russia also provides industrial development and maintenance projects in Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The signing of a cooperation agreement with the Eurasian Economic Commission and the provision of platforms for the St. Petersburg International Forum and GMIS-2019 were also noted by the UNIDO head as appositive move. In addition, the approaches of Russia and UNIDO to the solution of the socio-economic problems today are very common. The summit provides an opportunity to use all the necessary potential of the participating countries to expand cooperation with each other. The geographical location of Ekaterinburg on the border of Europe and Asia contributes to the development of economic relations of European entrepreneurs with partners from China, Japan and other Asian countries. The examples of the World Cup games in 2018 and the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM emphasize the availability of infrastructure facilities in the city for hosting major international events and accommodate up to 40,000 tourists per day. The organizer of the summit is preparing an exhibition of 100 startups, which includes the most promising sectors – the drivers of growth of the world economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The willingness of international representatives to take part in the summit testifies their attitude towards Russia as a reliable trade and economic partner, which fulfills its obligations, despite US attempts to isolate Russia from the system of international relations.

USAID economic cluster in Bishkek to cross with EU and China investments

US Embassy in Bishkek

A new economic cluster to support Kyrgyzstan’s light industry is to be launched in Bishkek. The project initiated by the USAID aims to enhance the country’s light industry businesses and to provide grant support to entrepreneurs, said the press-office of the US Embassy in Bishkek.
However, the US initiative confronts the interests of the EU and China in the region. Earlier in April, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov made his first visit to Germany after becoming President in 2017. The purpose of the visit was to expand trade and economic relations with Germany, to attract EU’s investment in the region and to reform the banking sector of the country. As a result, 11 bilateral contracts were signed between Kyrgyz and German companies. Later in April Jeenbekov met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in purpose to “open a new page of Kyrgyz-Chinese relations” and to take part in the second One Belt One Road Forum.
Jeenbekov’s aim to have tighter relations with the EU and China is explained by the country’s ambitions to play a solid role in the Eurasia integration and to become a strategic transit zone for the global One Belt One Road initiative. On the other hand, the US economic policy in the country might disturb the EU transparent business approach and will lead to Washington’s control over Kyrgyz enterprises. Stronger positions of the US in Kyrgyzstan will also stall the plans of Beijing to integrate infrastructure projects in Kyrgyzstan . The aggravation of relations with China will have a negative impact on the Kyrgyz economy, given its high dependence on Chinese investment and the Bishkek’s inclusion into One Belt One Road initiative.
The current situation puts Kyrgyzstan at the crossroads and the way the country will choose will be defining its long-term development for the next decades. According to local politicians, the political and economic compass President Jeenbekov will choose will also play a crucial role during the 2020 Kyrgyz Presidential elections campaign.

Neither Moscow way, nor the EU’s? how Moldova’s Vladimir Plahotniuc manipulates the public opinion

The upcoming elections in Moldova are encouraging more and more political experts to attempt to predict the results. The main focus is on Moldova’s de-facto leader, Vladimir Plahotniuc who continues to play the double game both with the West and Moscow.  Through manipulating both Russia and US/EU, Plahotniuc has already earned a fortune and he is definitely not going to stop.

Notorious for stealing $1 billion (around 12% of the country’s GDP) to the offshore territories (a “theft of the century”) through the Moldavian banks back in 2014, Plahotniuc managed to get away with it and even to charm Washington’s power brokers making the Obama Administration welcome him with open arms.

According to Aaron Miller’s book, “Moldova Under Vladimir Plahotniuc: Corruption & Oligarchy”, Plahotniuc deftly manages and manipulates the public opinion in Moldova with an ongoing “Russia vs. the West” narrative. But indeed, no party is expected to win the majority, which will lead to a deadlock that benefits a power broker like Plahotniuc. The only Plahotniuc political ambitions is to get wealthier. As Moldovan’s whistleblower Gofman says, Plahotniuc, as chairman of the Democratic Party of Moldova (DPM), received 70 percent of the $1 billion stolen funds, with the remaining 30 percent divvied up between DPM deputies and officials from Moldova’s Liberal Party.  Despite winning only 19 of 101 parliamentary seats in Moldova’s 2014 parliamentary election, Plahotniuc’s DPM party formed a coalition government with the pro-European Liberal Democratic Party (PLDM).  This has certainly raised doubts in Brussels whether the EU could continue trade with corrupted Moldova. Nevertheless, Plahotniuc remains “unpunishable” as, the Miiller says, “Moldova’s elites, like Plahotniuc, get to define the rules…write the rules and rewrite the rules, and [they] are not held accountable by either Brussels or Moscow.”