"Gay Lobby" Accusations Inside Russian Orthodox Church

Two priests have recently accused a secret and vindictive "gay lobby" of undermining the Church, from the inside.

Ulyanovsk metropolitan Bishop Anastasius
Ulyanovsk metropolitan Bishop Anastasius
Emmanuel Grynszpan

Ulyanovsk, which happens to be the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin, is at the center of one of the worst scandals to shake the Russian Orthodox Church since it reemerged 25 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Monday night, in this city 560 miles west of Moscow, the faithful gathered and started to boo the metropolitan Bishop Anastasius before he could even begin his sermon. Newly appointed at the city's church, Anastasius has been haunted by a scandal since 2013, in which he allegedly harassed homosexuals at the Kazan Theological Seminary.

As Anastasius approached the entrance, 50 people who were waiting for him began to shout: "Anaksios!" (Greek for “disgraceful”). The Cossacks in charge of his security struggled to hold back the protesters, who followed the cleric up to the altar, and a brawl was just about avoided.

Two local Orthodox priests, Ioan Kossykh and Georgy Roschupkyn, were among the protesters. They started the movement soon after they heard about Anastasius' promotion to metropolitan.

"When I learned of his designation, I was taken aback," Kossykh wrote on his blog. "How can a man in such an ill-repute be appointed to our community?"

The two priests are calling for his public repentance or, at the very least, explanations from the Church hierarchy, which so far has rejected their demands and declared that Anastasius will remain in his position.

The day after the incident, Metropolitan Anastasius answered to the uproar: "Someone is trying to recreate another Maidan …" a reference to the political uprising in Kiev which has become synonymous with foreign infiltration to undermine Russian interests.

Sexual abuse accusations

The case was brought to light by Russian publications online but has not gotten wide coverage on TV channels or national newspapers. Le Temps contacted officials in the Russian patriarchate, but none agreed to comment publicly on the incident.

Andrei Kouraiev, a priest at loggerheads with the clergy, is of the opinion that "the patriarchate had to show to its members that it will not give up on them, if they are loyal. It serves to intimidate the lower ranks as well."

Kouraiev accuses a gay lobby of undermining the Orthodox Church, and foresees a harsh punishment for the two outspoken priests, Kossykh and Roschupkyn.

Elena Volkova, a specialist of Orthodox Church affairs, says "the existence of a gay lobby is beyond doubt," and being part of it "assures you will climb the hierarchical ladder very quickly."

Volkova says there have also been many cases of sexual violence against young priests. "It doesn't surprise anyone, but it is absolutely taboo. Those who dare to talk about this are hunted down and harassed," she said.

Senior officials are dead-set on a "no public apologies" policy for incidents of abuse, Volkova says. "This policy explains the patriarchate’s violently homophobic campaigns. The criticism against the gay community are meant to divert the people’s attention away from their own vices."

Both the Orthodox Church and the Kremlin have been aggressively and openly homophobic since 2012, when President Vladimir Putin launched his campaign for a third term with a far-right agenda. The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill regularly praises Putin in public, and in exchange enjoys material and administrative privileges. There is also control over the judicial system, which in the latest case meant that an investigation has been opened in Ulyanovsk against the two dissident priests.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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