Date: 28 December 2022 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński

Ukraine Continues Crackdown on Russian-Affiliated Orthodox Church

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church affiliated to Moscow could no longer be allowed to lease Kyiv Pechersk Lavra churches, including the Church of the Assumption, according to Pavlo, head of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. This could be another step towards curbing the influence of churches affiliated to Moscow.

SOURCE: СБУ проводить безпекові заходи на об’єктах УПЦ (МП) у дев’яти областях України (ssu.gov.ua)

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a unique church site, is owned by the state. The Russian-controlled church’s lease on this part of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra will expire at the end of December 2022. Consequently, Moscow-affiliated priests could be banned from entering church premises in Kyiv. Pavlo Lebid, head of the Russian-affiliated church’s Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, also urged Zelensky to prevent the adoption of bills restricting the church’s rights to use Kyiv premises. In the last two months, Ukraine conducted nationwide raids on religious sites that belong to the Russian-controlled church, during which authorities say they have so far found Russian propaganda. In other church facilities, searches uncovered large sums of money and forged documents. This triggered speculation that a part or all of the monastery may be transferred to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Zelensky said the parliament two would approve a proposal by the National Security and Defense Council to ban the Russian-backed Ukrainian church. Ukraine has long held valid concerns that the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church poses a security threat, and has instead promoted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which in 2019 was granted “autocephaly” or independence, in the spring of 2022. In addition to these two, there is one more involving priests and parishioners loyal to the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who declined the Holy Synod’s decision in May and remain formally affiliated to the Patriarch of Moscow. There is no formal data on how many Ukrainian parishes remain in Moscow’s orbit, but the number is likely to now be considerably lower. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many of the parishes in Ukraine, which had remained loyal to Moscow, cut ties with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been penetrated by Russian services, which poses a grave threat to state security. Following recent raids on church premises, many priests and other dubious people have been sanctioned by Ukraine’s National Security Council. The question is why Ukrainian officials allowed the Orthodox Church loyal to Moscow to run for so long in war-town Ukraine. Perhaps Zelensky was cautious about the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, whose declared independence came as a big success of Petro Poroshenko, former Ukrainian leader.

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