Fact Check: An Orthodox Priest Did NOT Anathematize Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy During His Visit To Bulgaria

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  • Автор: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: An Orthodox Priest Did NOT Anathematize Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy During His Visit To Bulgaria Not A Priest

Did an Orthodox priest pronounce an anathema on the motorcade of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he passed through the streets of Bulgaria's capital Sofia? No, that's not true: Lead Stories found that the man shown in the video, wearing a black robe and holding a cross, is not a priest, and his actions in front of the camera have nothing to do with an anathema, an official act of excommunication from the Russian Orthodox church.

On July 6, 2023, the claim appeared in a video posted on the TikTok account @atanasstefanof (archived here) and was shared on these TikTok accounts (here, here and here) and Russian media and Belarus media (Time code: 7:46).

The Russian caption, translated into English from Russian by Lead Stories staff, reads:

A Bulgarian Orthodox priest anathematized Zelenskyy's motorcade, who came on a secret visit to Sofia to ask for ammunition. The puppet authorities in Sofia cordoned off the entire city center, fearing the protests of the Bulgarians, who, according to sociologists, are the largest Russophiles in the European Union.

Below is how the post appeared on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-08-02 at 12.26.48.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Wed Aug 2 11:28:11 2023 UTC)

Reports by Bulgaria's Blitz and Telegraf news agencies say a "priest" threw himself at Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's motorcade during his visit to Bulgaria's capital on July 6th, and video was published showing a man dressed in a black habit, waving a crucifix in front of a motorcade of vehicles, and shouting, "Anathema, anathema." Police are seen intervening to stop him and pull him aside.

The man shown in the video is Atanas Stefanov, a self-described pro-Russian activist, who refers to himself as an "ipodeacon" on his social media accounts. An ipodeacon is not a priest but an assistant to a church deacon, a church servant who does not hold a sacred order.

The actions he performed in front of the camera have nothing to do with a church Anathema which is the harshest punishment that the Orthodox Church can impose on one of its members for serious transgressions. It involves a complete separation and expulsion from the Church and can be imposed by the diocesan hierarch or the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the Holy Synod only upon the recommendation of the church court.

Additionally, there appear to be no credible reports that authorities in Sofia cordoned off the entire city center, fearing the protests of the Bulgarians and a search for the phrase "Sofia's authorities cordoned off the entire city center, fearing the protests of Bulgarians" or "Властите на София отцепихаха целия център на града, опасявайки се от протестите на българите" conducted on July 31, 2023, using Google News' index of thousands of credible news sites, did not reveal any such reports. Last year, Bulgaria became one of the key suppliers of ammunition and fuel to Ukraine.

On July 6, 2023, Zelenskyy visited Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, discussing military aid and receiving assurances of support for Ukraine's entry into NATO following the end of its war with Russia.



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