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Former Kherson abbot of Moscow-linked church charged with treason, aiding Russia

by Martin Fornusek February 19, 2024 1:33 PM 1 min read
The former abbot of the Dormition Cathedral in Kherson charged with treason. Photo published on Feb. 19, 2024. (SBU/Telegram)
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A former abbot of the Dormition Cathedral in Kherson was charged with treason for supporting Russian occupation and cooperating with occupation authorities, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on Feb. 19.

The suspect fled Kherson shortly before the city's liberation in Ukraine's counteroffensive in the fall of 2022. He is now believed to reside in the Russian-occupied part of Kherson Oblast, serving as secretary in the Skadovsk eparchy, illegitimately established by the Russian Orthodox Church in occupied Ukraine.

While heading the cathedral in Kherson, the sanctioned priest of the Kremlin-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP) has maintained close contact with occupation authorities and praised them publicly, the Prosecutor General's Office said.

As a person with "informal influence on the opinion of the believers of the UOC-MP in Kherson and other regions of Ukraine," he provided "ideological support to the Russian Federation in carrying out subversive activities against Ukraine," according to the prosecutors.

The SBU also reported that the former abbot was invited to the Kremlin in September 2022 to attend the ceremony on the illegal annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian oblasts, including Kherson Oblast.

The suspect was believed to have joined the inner circle of Vladimir Saldo, a Russian-appointed proxy head in Kherson Oblast, the SBU said.

In return for his support, the suspect has reportedly received various benefits. For example, he was allowed to use property illegally confiscated from Ukrainian citizens and businesses for religious services.

He was charged with treason and aiding an aggressor country.

"Comprehensive measures are underway to bring the perpetrator to justice," the SBU said.

Ukraine has two main Orthodox churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the autocephalous (autonomous) Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and has been accused of aligning with the Russian government during the war, which the church's leadership has denied.

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