Suspicion of illegal cooperation with Russia: Ukrainian law enforcement authorities seal off Kiev monastery

In Ukraine, the secret service SBU has carried out raids on several monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, citing counterintelligence as the reason. The cave monastery in the capital Kyiv, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also searched, as the authority announced on Tuesday. The secret service was supported by the police and the National Guard.

Law enforcement officers are investigating the monastery’s grounds and buildings to check the monks for possible involvement in anti-state activities. According to the SBU press service, this is intended to prevent “the Lavra from being used as a cell for the ‘Russian world'”.

The SBU is also examining data on the possible use of the monastery’s premises as a shelter for enemy subversive groups and scouts, as well as a weapons store. Several Church monasteries in the western Rivne region were also searched.

The Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the largest and oldest monastery in Ukraine, is under the control of one of the two largest church communities, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

A week earlier, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra was involved in a scandal – a video was circulating online in which devout Christians were praying for Russia on the grounds of the church complex. The authenticity of the video was later confirmed. The leadership of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church explained that this was a personal initiative of parishioners according to the official liturgy and that the pastors had nothing to do with it.

Russia accuses Ukraine of war against the Russian Orthodox Church

“The Moscow Patriarchate’s monopoly on worship in Lavra is categorically not accepted by the majority of the Orthodox in Ukraine and by Ukrainian society,” declared the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany, on June 24, 2022 in an open Letter to Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal.

The SBU initiated a criminal case entitled “Justification of Russian armed aggression against Ukraine”. An investigation into this case will be conducted today.

Ukrainian nationalists have long been demanding that the largest Orthodox Church should be deprived of the complex of the Cave Monastery. Instead, this is to be transferred to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was founded in 2018 with state aid. The caves of the monastery, laid out in the Middle Ages, with their relics, are a place of pilgrimage for orthodox Christians far beyond the Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Ukraine of waging a war against the Russian Orthodox Church “for a long time”. The search of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra is “another link in the chain of military actions against Russian orthodoxy,” Peskov said on Tuesday, according to the Interfax agency. (With dpa)

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