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March 2024
The Russian Orthodox Church as an infowar tool
Author: Patiuk Daryna
in partnership with Diplomatie magazine

The Russian Orthodox Church plays a key role in Russian information wars, both in Russia, before and during the full-scale war in Ukraine, and across numerous countries in the West and beyond. Its value added is societal trust and social capital based on religion that significantly amplifies the efficacy of its propaganda. More importantly, the ROC is a wing of a Russian spy network consisting of priests and parishioners. According to the research by Le Matin Dimanche and Sonntag Zeitung, the current Patriarch Kirill, worked for the KGB in Geneva under the pseudonym "Mikhailov" during the Soviet era collecting information about members of the World Council of Churches to influence their attitude toward the Soviet Union.

In other words, the ROC is an arm of the Russian state, both as an extension of the Foreign Affairs Ministry through international presence, and propaganda, and as part of the Russian spy network. This is why it is important to understand the ROC objectives, strategy, and methods. This article aims to do just that. It will explore the current role of the ROC for the Kremlin and how to confront it by comparing its operations, methods, and results in Ukraine and France. It will also draw on Ukraine’s experience of dealing with the ROC to diminish its influence.