In a powerful display of protest last week, one Ukrainian woman stood against a religious procession organised by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Anna Allein, from the FEMEN organisation, climbed onto the St. Vladimir monument and enacted a crucifixion scene on the iconic depiction of the saint’s baptism. She was naked except for nude underwear and had ‘PUTIN KILLS’ written on her chest. FEMEN was protesting the involvement of the Russian government in Eastern parts of the Ukraine; as well as the church’s support of Russia.
The Ukraine and Russia have had a complicated political history for many years. The Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, but due to the fact that the country is seen as a ‘nation of interest’ for Russia, there have been high political tensions. Even after two signed pacts, in 2014 Russian military infiltrated several Eastern Ukrainian areas (including Donbass). After a large area was annexed by Russian forces, armed conflict erupted between pro-Russian separatists and those loyal to the Ukraine. Conflict has raged in Donbass since 2014 and FEMEN aims to highlight this through the demonstration at the St. Vladimir monument.
FEMEN writes about the incident: ’The Moscow Patriarchate has been the source of anti-Ukrainian hysteria for many years, and today its priests bless the war against our country, propagandise dictatorship and obscurantism […] Today, Putin and his accomplice Gundyaev [the Russian Orthodox Bishop and ‘Patriarch of Moscow’] are killing in the Ukraine, trying to tear it apart, so the Moscow Patriarchate is nothing but a terrorist organisation that openly operates [in our country].’
FEMEN is known to be radical in raising awareness about some of the pressing issues facing women today, by challenging the patriarchy in all of its manifestations. FEMEN is an international women’s movement. Activists go topless during their protest actions, with slogans painted on their bodies and flowers in their hair. Believing that a woman’s right to her own body is the first step to her liberation, the group sees female nudity as a key driver in toppling the system they are fighting; and a sign of opposition to patriarchal systems and a new wave of women’s revolution. These women have been prepared through specific training for some of the most extreme forms of protest in dangerous and sensitive areas.
Earlier in July, a FEMEN activist named Angelina Diash protested the arrival of the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko in the Ukraine. She took her clothes off during an official meeting between the two nations and accused the Belarusian president of dictatorship. She was arrested and was penalised by a court order to hand over her passport.