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Parliament passes bill on banning Russia-affiliated religious organizations in first reading

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 19, 2023 2:14 PM 2 min read
Metropolitan Onufriy (C) arrives for the Sunday service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) at a compound of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra on March 26, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Roman Pilipey/Getty Images)
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The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, passed in its first reading on Oct. 19 a bill that could ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), lawmakers reported.

The bill would prohibit the activities of any religious organizations affiliated with war propaganda or justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

According to lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak from the opposition party Voice, 267 members of parliament voted in favor of the bill, 15 against, and two abstained.

MP Iryna Herashchenko (from former president Petro Poroshenko's European Solidarity party) called the vote "historic."

"The Verkhovna Rada took the first step to expel Moscow priests from Ukrainian land… It (the draft law) is not about religion or church, but about protecting the national security of Ukraine," she said in a video message.

"It's about the fact that the church, which has a metropolis in Moscow, is not really a church, but a branch of the FSB (Russian security services). And it can be banned in court."

ISW: Russia ‘weaponizes religion’ to discredit Ukraine, achieve military goals
Russia “continues to weaponize religion” to discredit Ukraine in the international arena and uses information operations about religion to achieve its military goals, the Institute for the Study of War wrote in its latest update.

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 (UOC-MP) has been accused of aligning with the Russian government during the war, which the church's leadership has denied.

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."

The Ukrainian government evicted the UOC-MP from the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and has brought charges against church leaders for spreading pro-war propaganda.

54% of Ukrainians believe the UOC-MP should be banned, according to a survey conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

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