EU/RUSSIA: TV channel of the Russian Orthodox Church under EU sanctions

Alexander Dvorkin, member of FECRIS board of directors and former vice-president, is linked to the TV Channel SPAS of the Russian Orthodox Church under EU sanctions 

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Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (30.12.2023) – On 18 December 2023, SPAS (СПАС), the official TV channel of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), was included in the 12th package of sanctions of the European Unionof EU sanctions as part of a separate list of “Russian media outlets which have engaged in a systematic, international campaign of disinformation, information manipulation and distortion of facts in order to enhance its strategy of destabilising both its neighbouring countries and the EU and its member states.”

To counteract this, the EU has suspended the broadcasting activities and licenses of a number of Kremlin-backed disinformation outlets.

SPAS TV Orthodox Channel under EU sanctions

In its programs, SPAS (Savior) justified the military attack on Ukraine with religious and spiritual arguments. The TV channel supports actions that violate and threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, says the Council of the European Union.


The YouTube video platform already blocked it in March 2022 together with Russian state media outlets. However, SPAS can still be viewed through its own site.


The TV channel started broadcasting in 2005 and according to the Moscow Orthodox Patriarchate is one of the 20 most important TV programs in Russia. It mainly broadcasts documentaries, live broadcasts and church services delivered by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, close to the Kremlin and its secret services.


SPAS describes itself as “the largest Christian TV channel in the world”. Its owner is the Russian Orthodox Church. The government financially supports the television program. According to the EU, the management of the channel maintains close relations with the state leadership.

Alexander Dvorkin and SPAS TV Channel in Russia & FECRIS in France

Alexander Dvorkin (Александр Дворкин), the Russian Orthodox propagandist, who is well-known for his hate-fueling speeches against Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical and Protestant Churches, Hare Krishna devotees and Scientologists both in Russia and abroad, has very close links with the SPAS TV, which has posted dozens of videos of the notorious propagandist. Until Russia’s war on Ukraine, he was banned by Ukraine for being one of the voices of Russia’s propaganda.

Until 2023, Dvorkin was still a member of the board of directors of FECRIS (European Federation of Research and Information Centres on Sectarianism), an anti-cult organization based in France and funded by public money. Until 2021, he was even the vice-president of FECRIS.

In a bailiff’s deed dated 10 September 2022, CAP-LC (Coordination of associations and individuals for freedom of conscience), which defends freedom of religion or belief throughout the world, summoned FECRIS  to appear before the Marseille Magistrates’ Court, seeking to have the organization dissolved for what it claimed are its illegal activities.


CAP-LC, which has ECOSOC status at the UN, points out that it was founded to defend peaceful religious minorities and new religions, which FECRIS has repeatedly stigmatized for numerous years as dangerous, harmful and totalitarian “cults.”


The request for dissolution of FECRIS is based on its dissemination of discriminatory and defamatory statements in 2006, 2009 as well as at conferences in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021 against a number of law-abiding minority religious and belief movements.

CAP-LC also denounces the misuse of public subsidies received by FECRIS from the French Prime Minister.


Each of the accusations of CAP-LC was supported by concrete evidence, twenty-seven documents in all filed with the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence.


On 12 December 2023, the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence confirmed a previous judgment forcing FECRIS, despite its attempts to escape court proceedings, to defend itself against a request of dissolution filed by the French association with ECOSOC status at the UN.


About EU sanctions against Patriarch Kirill vetoed by Orban in 2022


On 7 April 2022, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution in which it condemned the role of Patriarch Kirill in providing theological cover for Russia’s aggression on Ukraine.


In the same year, 26 EU member states decided to impose sanctions on the head of the church, Patriarch Kirill but President of Hungary Viktor Orban vetoed the imposition of EU sanctions on him.


In July 2022, the French association CAP Liberté de Conscience and Human Rights Without Frontiers (Brussels), which filed a documented complaint against Patriarch Kirill with the ICC (International Criminal Court), made a joint statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council to share their deep concerns about the grave responsibility of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the outbreak and extension of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


The possible prosecution of Patriarch Kirill falls within Article 25 of the Rome Statute which provides that “a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of such a crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission.”


At a lower level, Alexander Dvorkin should be put on a further EU sanctions list as a banned person in Ukraine and a propagandist of the pro-war Russian Orthodox Church.

Photo: The Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence. Credits.

Further reading about FORB in EU and Russia on HRWF website