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SBU charges bishop of Russia-affiliated church with justifying invasion

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 20, 2023 7:35 PM 1 min read
Metropolitan Pavlo attends a session of the Kyiv Court of Appeal on April 21, 2023. (Pavlo Bagmut / Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
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Metropolitan Pavlo, a senior member of the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has been accused of being involved in subversive activities against Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced on Oct. 20.

His church has been repeatedly accused of aligning with the Russian government during the war, a claim its leadership has denied. Metropolitan Pavlo, who was previously an abbot at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, was put under house arrest in April.

The church's leadership has denied the allegations and continues to dispute the existence of ties to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ukraine's other main Orthodox denomination, known as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, was established as a fully independent church in 2019 in reaction to the alleged ties the Ukrainian Orthodox Church had with Moscow.

Since November last year, Ukraine's law enforcement has raided multiple premises of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, alleging that the church is at the heart of "subversive activities by Russian special services."

Ukraine's parliament passed a bill on Oct. 19 that could ban the church.

The investigation into Metropolitan Pavlo uncovered evidence that he publicly denied the existence of Ukraine as an independent state, and referred to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a "civil war," the SBU said.

The SBU also intercepted his phone calls, during which he appeared to be glad that Russian forces were occupying Kherson.  

Metropolitan Pavlo has been charged with violating religious equality and repeatedly justifying or denying the armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine.

If found guilty the bishop could face up to eight years in prison.

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