This article from Reuters examines the backstory of the Russian Orthodox Church and her close ties to the Russian state, and whose possible reunification with Rome has been speculated on in other stories we noted in another blog post, https://catholiceye.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/russia-the-church/

An excerpt from the Reuters article.

OLIGARCH CONNECTIONS

Under Putin, the ROC gets support from the state and powerful oligarchs allied to the Kremlin, while Moscow benefits from its public blessing. A recent poll showed 75 percent of Russians approve of the ROC and more than half value its close ties with the state.

One influential financier is Konstantin Malofeev, a Russian Orthodox businessman and philanthropist whose St. Basil the Great Foundation paid for the renovation of the Moscow headquarters of the ROC’s Department of External Church Relations.

The foundation’s board includes Igor Shchyogolev, one of Putin’s aides at the Kremlin. The fund says it offers humanitarian aid for the rebel-held east Ukraine under an agreement signed with Aleksander Borodai, formerly the top separatist leader.

In July, Kiev opened an investigation into Malofeev, alleging that he was financing armed rebels in east Ukraine. The European Union sanctioned Malofeev soon afterwards, saying he used to employ Borodai and was destabilising Ukraine. Malofeev did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on that.

He has previously dismissed Kiev’s investigation as “ridiculous,” saying he sent only humanitarian aid and had sent no funding to pro-Russian separatists.

Another powerful figure in the Orthodox world is Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways and a long-standing ally of Putin. Yakunin, sanctioned by Washington over Ukraine, heads the St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, which helped reunite Kirill’s Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which separated from the ROC in the 1920s.

At the 2007 Moscow ceremony marking the reunification, Putin called the merger “an event of truly nationwide, historic importance and great moral significance.” He added: “The revival of the church unity is a crucial condition for revival of lost unity of the whole ‘Russian world’, which has always had the Orthodox faith as one of its foundations.”

CHURCH AT CROSSROADS

The ROC’s close ties to the state were on display early in the Ukraine crisis when Kirill and the Russian Foreign Ministry issued nearly identical statements, warning against a confrontation and speaking of the larger Russia’s “brotherly” Ukraine.

When Russia sent its troops to Crimea, one of the justifications it used was an alleged threat to parishes there linked to Kirill’s Moscow Patriarchate. Kirill’s full title is “Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus,” a reference to a medieval state in Kiev to which modern Russia traces its roots.

In Ukraine, Kirill oversees the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. It competes against a smaller church of the Kiev Patriarchate that split from Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Winning applause from those Ukrainians who seek Western integration and scorn Moscow’s efforts to undermine it, the Kiev Patriarchate has strongly backed Ukraine’s national cause in the current conflict. Its head, Patriarch Filaret, blamed Putin squarely for the violence and said he was possessed by Satan.

The conflict in Ukraine has put strains on the ties between the ROC and the state in Russia; and Kirill, wary of alienating worshippers in Ukraine by being too closely associated with the Kremlin, has increasingly hedged his bets.

Retrieved October 8, 2014 from http://www.trust.org/item/20141006084610-prl3n