Skip to content
Edit post

Investigative Stories from Ukraine: At least 20 Ukrainian priests of Moscow-affiliated church hold Russian passports, journalists find

by Anna Myroniuk April 11, 2023 4:13 PM 7 min read
Journalists find Russian passports of over 20 Ukrainian priests of Moscow-affiliated church. (Credit: Ukrainska Pravda)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Support independent journalism in Ukraine. Join us in this fight.

Become a member Support us just once

Welcome to Investigative Stories from Ukraine, the Kyiv Independent's newsletter that walks you through the most prominent investigations of the past week.

If you are fond of in-depth journalism that exposes war crimes, corruption and abuse of power across state organizations in Ukraine and beyond, subscribe to our investigative newsletter.

To support our journalism, please become a patron of the Kyiv Independent. Pledges start from just $5 a month.

Top investigative stories


Ukrainska Pravda finds Russian passports of over 20 Ukrainian priests of Moscow-affiliated church

At least 20 priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, an affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church, have Russian passports, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

The information reportedly comes from Rospassport, a Russian state database.

According to it, Metropolitan of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Onufriy, whose secular name is Orest Berezovsky, received a Russian passport on March 20, 2002, in Moscow, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

The following year, Onufriy allegedly obtained a Russian foreign passport. This appears to be the second Russian foreign passport of Onufriy, with the first one issued in 1998. This means he has had Russian citizenship since at least the late 1990s.

After the investigation aired, Onufriy put out a statement saying that he no longer has his Russian citizenship but provided no details on when he lost it.

In a 2015 interview, Onufriy called the Russian war in the Donbas a “civilian war.” He later publicly condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

Read more: SBU finds Russian passports, propaganda at premises of Moscow-affiliated church

Another priest who allegedly has a Russian passport is Bishop Hedeon, also known as Yuriy Kharon, the vicar of the Desyatinniy Monastery of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is linked with Russia.

According to the extracts from Rospassport, Hedeon received a Russian passport in Moscow in 2019. The following year, he got two Russian foreign passports.

Ukrainska Pravda also obtained a video showing a person resembling Hedeon participating in the Christmas service in Kazan, a city in southwest Russia, a year after Russia unleashed its all-out war against Ukraine.

Hedeon’s visit to Russia on Jan. 8, 2022, was confirmed to Ukrainska Pravda by sources in law enforcement. A Russian media outlet also reportedly mentions his participation in the service.

Oleh Ivanov, the former Metropolitan of Izium and Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast, received a Russian passport in December 2022, according to documents obtained by Ukrainska Pravda.

The publication reported that Ivanov collaborated with Russian occupation authorities in Izium and fled to Russia after the Ukrainian army liberated the city.

The priests that Ukrainska Pravda was able to contact either denied having Russian passports or refused to comment.

Watch the full story in the Ukrainian language via the link.

Bihus.Info finds mansions, cars, and agribusiness allegedly belonging to Ukrainian Metropolitan supporting Russia's war

The abbot of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, Pavlo Lebid, owns two luxury houses, a fleet of luxury vehicles and controls an agricultural business in Ukraine, according to investigative publication

One house is in central Kyiv, while the other is in a village in Kyiv Oblast. The agricultural company does business in Kyiv and Chernihiv oblasts.
On April 1, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) charged Lebid with “inciting inter-religious hatred and justifying Russia's armed aggression."

The abbot denied the allegations, calling them politically motivated.

After the SBU raided his residences, the court placed Lebid under house arrest in his mansion in the village of Voronkiv in Kyiv Oblast. Lebid called this house small, unsuitable for living, and claimed it has no electricity, heating, or mobile connection.

Bihus.Info challenged Lebid’s claims by finding this house. It turned out to be a two-story mansion of 580 square meters with a 170 square meter guest house, a gazebo, and a guardhouse. The security guard told the journalists that the building has electricity.

According to Bihus.Info, the house was put up for sale for $1.3 million in 2016. It was reportedly advertised as being furnished with Italian and English furniture and having Czech chandeliers, marble, and German parquet flooring.

Lebid’s house in the capital reportedly has an area of 506 square meters, a sauna, a swimming pool, and an elevator. Journalists estimated its worth at around $1 million, judging by the prices of other properties in the neighborhood.

Watch the Kyiv Independent’s new video podcast: Why Ukraine is finally kicking out Russian church

Bihus.Info also found that Lebid owns a complex of warehouses and cowsheds in the village of Voronkiv, where one of his houses is based. The land under this complex of buildings is owned by the village council. Lebid reportedly sub-rents it to a third person, Oleksandr Matviienko, an owner of an agricultural company called the MPL Agro. Journalists suspect Matviienko to be a nominal owner and believe that the acronym MPL in the company’s name could stand for Metropolitan Pavlo Lebid.

The Mercedes-Benz that Lebid has recently driven is registered under the name of Matviienko, according to Bihus.Info.

Lebid has a collection of Mercedes cars and has shown loyalty to the brand throughout the years, earning the nickname “Pasha Mercedes.”

Watch the full investigation in the Ukrainian language via the link.

FT: UK firm has exported $1.2 billion of electronics to Russia despite sanctions

British firm Mykines Corporation has exported $1.2 billion worth of technical equipment to Russia since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, $982 million of which is subject to export restrictions, the Financial Times reported.

The London-registered company’s exports included high-end microchips, telecom equipment, and servers, which potentially violated sanctions on export.

The sale of such goods to Russia without the British government's consent may constitute a breach of sanctions, regardless of shipping routes, most of which went through China.

A U.K. government spokesman told the Financial Times that authorities were taking potential breaches "very seriously" but did not discuss the details of how they enforce sanctions in specific cases.

The Financial Times investigation found that the person listed as having “significant control” in the firm was Vitalii Poliakov, a 53-year-old Ukrainian.

Records obtained by the Financial Times show the company's exports to Russia suddenly took off after the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

The G7 member states reportedly discussed in February whether to sanction companies in China, Iran, and North Korea that are providing Russia with parts and technology that have military purposes, Bloomberg reported, citing its sources.

Russia continues to access foreign chips and technology through intermediaries like Iran or North Korea, according to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration, Thea Kendler.

China previously hit back at claims that some of its state-owned firms may be helping Russia’s war in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported.

Read the full story in English via the link.

BBC exposes UK company for spreading Russian fake news in Middle East

A U.K.-registered media company called Yala News disseminates Russian state narratives in Arab-speaking countries, the BBC’s Disinformation Team reported.

According to the publication, Yala News claims to offer impartial reporting, even though most of its content directly mirrors stories found on Russian state media. Moreover, the company reportedly operates out of Syria despite its U.K. registration.

The BBC monitored Yala News' most-viewed videos for a year, aided by disinformation specialists, and claimed that just about all these stories could be traced back to the Kremlin.

These include fake stories saying the Bucha massacre was staged, that President Volodymyr Zelensky was “drunk” in one of his video addresses to the nation, and that Ukrainian soldiers have been fleeing the front line. All of these claims reportedly originated in Russian state media and were then republished by Yala News.

The company’s content started gaining traction shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

When asked by the BBC about the pro-Kremlin videos, Yala’s CEO, Ahmad Moemna, a Syrian businessman living in Dubai, said "Yala News content is not biased. Whether Syria or Russia or anything else, we respect impartiality."

He denied that his media business received funding from the Russian or Syrian governments.

On paper, Yala News is based in central London in a residential building shared with more than 65,000 other companies, only a fifth of which are active. In reality, it seems to operate from a Damascus suburb, the BBC team concluded by having geolocated a picture the team of Yala News shared on social media. A former employee confirmed to the BBC that the company is based in Syria.

“We do not have employees in London yet, but we could in the near future," Moemna said.

Experts interviewed by the BBC said the U.K. registration could be a smokescreen Yala News uses to avoid being seen as a company operating from a sanctioned country.

Read the full story in English via the link.



Ukrainian former top security official tried in Serbia on money laundering charges

The former head of the Main Department of Internal Security of Ukraine’s Security Service, Andriy Naumov, appeared in the High Court of the city of Nis, Serbia, on money laundering charges on April 6, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The court heard the parties and agreed to proceed with the case in May.

Naumov left Ukraine a few hours before Russia started its full-scale invasion in February last year.

In June, he resurfaced in Serbia, where he was arrested during his attempt to get to North Macedonia with 608,000 euros and $125,000 in cash as well as at least two valuable emeralds in his car. According to him, the assets belong to his family.

Soon, President Volodymyr Zelensky revoked his rank while the Security Service searched his residencies in the city of Kyiv and Kyiv Oblast.

In Ukraine, Naumov is under investigation by law enforcers. He is charged with treason, embezzlement, and fraud.

Journalists of Schemes, an investigative project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, found that the value of Naumov’s real estate exceeds his official income, a sign of corruption.

Ukraine requested his extradition and is awaiting Serbia’s decision.

Support independent journalism in Ukraine. Join us in this fight.
Freedom can be costly. Both Ukraine and its journalists are paying a high price for their independence. Support independent journalism in its darkest hour. Support us for as little as $1, and it only takes a minute.
visa masterCard americanExpress

Editors' Picks

Enter your email to subscribe
Please, enter correct email address
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
* indicates required


* indicates required
Successfuly subscribed
Thank you for signing up for this newsletter. We’ve sent you a confirmation email.