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13 Feb, 2024 10:39

Top Russian MP fumes over ‘sacrilegious’ Ukrainian idea

An official in Kiev wants to dig up the tomb of Imperial Russian PM Pyotr Stolypin and use his remains as a bargaining chip
Top Russian MP fumes over ‘sacrilegious’ Ukrainian idea

A Ukrainian proposal to remove the remains of Tsarist-era Russian Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin from its burial place in the heart of Kiev and exchange it with Moscow for prisoners of war is sacrilegious, Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin has said.

In an emotional post on social media on Tuesday, the senior Russian lawmaker condemned the idea, which was floated in a TV interview last week by the recently appointed director of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, a state-owned monastery that is considered one of the holiest Orthodox Christian sites in Ukraine.

Last year Maksym Ostapenko became the chief custodian of the Lavra, which was split into a secular museum and a religious section, after the government in Kiev pressured the traditional Ukrainian Orthodox Church to vacate the premises.

As Stolypin’s tomb inside in the Lavra, Ostapenko has authority over it. Speaking to the TV channel TSN, he described the grave as an “imperial Russian marker” and expressed his intention to remove it.

“One of the ideas is to include him in the exchange pool, regardless of how it would look” the official suggested. “We have dead heroes. We have living heroes who were captured. We have Ukrainian dignitaries buried on the territory of Russia.”

Volodin responded that Russia could not accept such a proposal. Stolypin, he noted, survived multiple assassination attempts and was fully aware that his life could end violently, so he explicitly asked to be buried wherever he would be killed.

In 1911, when the prime minister was accompanying Tsar Nicolas II during a visit in Kiev, the 11th attempt on his life proved successful. A radical anarchist managed to get close to Stolypin by becoming a security informant, and shot him. The prime minister succumbed to his injuries days later and was buried at the Lavra, in accordance with his wishes.

In the 1960s, his tombstone was removed by Soviet authorities, allegedly on the personal orders of Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev. It was moved back and restored, close to the original form, in the final years of the USSR.

Stolypin is an unpopular figure for Ukrainian nationalists, who maintain a strong influence in the country. Just days before his 1911 assassination, he delivered an impassioned speech on the graves of two 17th century cossack figures, who opposed Ivan Mazepa, the then-leader of the Zaporozye Host.

Mazepa betrayed his oath of loyalty to Russian Tsar Peter I and sided with the Kremlin’s opponents, an act for which he was condemned in Moscow and is considered a national hero in modern Kiev. Stolypin, a devoted Russian patriot, hailed the loyalty of Mazepa’s rivals to the Romanovs.