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The Ukrainian government terminated the agreement with the Russian-controlled Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) on the free use of religious buildings located in the Lower Lavra, a part of Ukraine's most significant Orthodox monastery.
The UOC-MP's church members must leave the Lower Lavra's premises by March 29, according to a statement published by Culture Ministry on March 10.
Earlier, the Ukrainian state didn't extend the Russian-affiliated church's lease of another part of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra called the Upper Lavra, starting the process of regaining control over the monastery.
In 2013, during the presidency of ousted Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-linked patriarchate signed a lease agreement on the use of Lower Lavra's buildings in central Kyiv for an indefinite period.
President Volodymyr Zelensky's government started checking the legality of the UOC-MP's lease on the Lower Lavra in early December, finally concluding that the church had violated the contract's terms, the Culture Ministry's statement reads.
Apart from the Moscow Patriarchate, the premises of the Lavra are also used by a museum.
The UOC-MP has faced backlash in recent months due to its deep and long-standing ties to Russia, as well as the discovery of Russian passports, anti-Ukrainian propaganda, and stolen icons during nationwide raids on its religious sites. Searches have also taken place at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.
Despite claiming independence from the Russian Orthodox Church in May and condemning the ongoing war in Ukraine, the UOC-MP remains subordinated to Moscow in the hierarchy of the Orthodox world.
On Dec. 1, Zelensky announced the start of a procedure to ban activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.
The Kyiv Pechersk Lavra ("pecherska" means "cave"), founded in 1051, is one of the first monasteries in Kyivan Rus. It belonged to the Ukrainian branch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until 1688 when it was annexed by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Since 1688, the Lavra has been used for Russian imperial propaganda.
The independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine on Jan. 7 held a Christmas service at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra for the first time.