A petition demanding the closure of the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris was created on the global platform for public campaigns Change.org.
Russia uses the center to spread propaganda – authors
According to the authors of the petition, the Center is a vivid example of Moscow’s use of its spiritual and cultural institutions to spread its influence and propaganda. That is the use of culture to achieve the political goals of the state, which is part of unconventional warfare.
The Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris enjoys diplomatic status as it is attached to the Russian Embassy in Paris. This status grants diplomatic immunity and the principle of inviolability within the building, which prohibits, for example, the search or seizure of property within its walls.
Centre may serve as a cover for espionage activities – Journalist
According to Kremlin critics and some local media, the center could ideally serve as a cover for espionage activities and actions in favor of Moscow. This was stated in a 2016 interview with RFI by French journalist and author of the book “Russian Federation: Investigating Putin’s Networks” Nicolas Hénin.
The petition emphasizes the sensitive location of the center near the Russian Embassy in France, near the government quarter. The authors also recalled its involvement in Russia’s information war against Ukraine.
“On 2 March, a text appeared on his Facebook page and Telegram, repeating Putin’s speech word for word, qualifying the Ukrainian government as ‘neo-Nazi’ and justifying the war and bombing”.Authors
Russian center spreads Russian Nationalism – Historian
The center is a replica of the cathedral of the same name in Moscow, and it has a French-Russian school, which can also serve as a place to spread the ideology of the Russian state.
Jean-François Colossimo, a historian and theologian, an expert on the Orthodox world, spoke about the nationalist sentiments of the Russian center in Paris in an interview with the French publication Le Point.
“Everything is like in Russia: Women wear headscarves, they are separated from men, they adore priests, they throw themselves at their feet, they kiss their hands.”
Jean-François Colossimo, historian and theologian
Experts spoke about the possible use of this church and other Russian churches as a spy center, including illegal wiretapping of French state bodies. After the outbreak of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, graffiti appeared on the cathedral demanding an end to the war and a stop Russia. They were quickly erased, and the cathedral ceased to function.
Russian writer and militant Prilepin spoke at the center
One of the pieces of evidence of the Putin regime’s propaganda promotion in the Russian center is the meeting of the Russian House in March 2021 with Russian politician, writer, and fighter in the Ukrainian-Russian war Zakhar Prilepin. Prilepin is one of the ideologies of Russian fascism.
On its website, the Russian House presented him without mentioning his participation in the war and fascist ideas: “At the presentation of his book, Zakhar Prilepin told the audience of the Russian House in Paris about war and peace in Donbas”. And behind this headline was Prilepin’s speech, which was direct propaganda for the Putin regime and justification of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Thus, it is rather a policy of political influence on citizens on the territory of a foreign state, rather than open diplomacy or cultural events.
Russia’s unconventional war in Europe
Unconventional warfare is a new form of warfare that supports conventional armed aggression. It uses cultural diplomacy, public debate, and open society election campaigns to manipulate and mislead the enemy.
The enemy for Russia is not only Ukraine and the West in general, but also French citizens in particular. It is the public opinion that Russian special services seek to manipulate to gain leverage over the French authorities. Religion and culture are becoming components of unconventional warfare.
This is what prompted the activists to call for the closure of the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Centre in Paris in a petition that has already collected 5121 signatures (09.05.23) in France.
“We cannot allow this ideology, which justifies the worst acts of war and repression, to spread in France. We cannot allow such a propaganda organization to operate freely in France. Such activities to involve the Russian diaspora in Putin’s imperialist and war-mongering project are carried out with impunity in France. That is why we demand its closure,” the petition says.