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Interior Ministry: Russia-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church priest charged with inciting religious hatred in Ukraine

by Alexander Khrebet September 2, 2023 6:17 PM 2 min read
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A priest of the Moscow-tied Ukrainian Orthodox Church was served a "notice of suspicion" for inciting religious hatred, the Interior Ministry reported on Sept. 2.

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) and the National Police found materials constituting propaganda when searching the Ovrutsk-Korosten and Zhytomyr eparchies, ecclesiastical units in Eastern Christianity equivalent to a diocese in the West, in June 2023, the ministry said.

The Interior Ministry did not mention the name of the priest but said he was a parson of the parish in the Ovrutsk-Korosten eparchy, located in central Zhytomyr Oblast.  

The SBU said on Sept. 2 that the priest, on orders of his metropolitan bishop, distributed pro-Kremlin brochures that portrayed Russia's war against Ukraine as an "internal civil conflict" and denied Russia's armed aggression. The leaflets also promoted hostility toward other religious denominations.

According to the SBU, the metropolitan was also charged with inciting religious hatred in a separate case in early July.

The priest faces a monetary penalty or up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Ukraine has two main Orthodox churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Kyiv Patriarchate). The Moscow-controlled church has 53 eparchies in Ukraine.

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

The Moscow-affiliated church already lost its lease at one of the main Eastern Orthodox shrines known as the Kyiv Pecherk Lavra when it expired in January, and the Ukrainian government opted not to renew.

However, the church's agreement on using another part of the ancient monastery, signed during the term of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, did not specify an end date. Ukrainian authorities are currently checking the legality of its lease.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Kyiv Patriarchate) held a Christmas service at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Ukraine's main Orthodox monastery, for the first time on Jan. 7.

Since its foundation as a cave monastery in 1051, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra has been a distinguished center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Kyivan Rus, then and now
Kyivan Rus was one of the most developed states of medieval Europe, lasting from around the late ninth to the mid-thirteenth century. It played a significant role in the history of the continent and the future East Slavic nations. The territories of Kyivan Rus included much of modern-day Ukraine, B…
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