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Russian Patriarch Kirill placed on Ukraine's wanted list

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 16, 2023 10:56 AM 1 min read
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during the Easter Mass at the Christ The Saviour Cathedral on April 24, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. (Contributor/Getty Images)
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The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has placed Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on its wanted list, according to the Interior Ministry's wanted persons database on Dec. 15.

Patriarch Kirill, born Vladimir Gundyayev, is the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a staunch supporter of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Russia's war against Ukraine.  

According to the Soviet archives, the bishop was a KGB agent and spied on Switzerland in the 1970s, using his role as an official representative at the World Council of Churches.

The database describes him as a person "hiding from pre-judicial investigation authorities,"

Kirill is accused of violating Article 110 of Ukraine's criminal code, which concerns actions that infringe on Ukraine's territorial integrity, resulting in "the death of people or other serious consequences." The charge carries a punishment of life imprisonment.

He is also charged with article 437, the "planning preparation, unleashing, and waging an aggressive war," which carries a punishment of up to 15 years imprisonment.  

The SBU announced the charges in November due to the fact he is a "member of the inner circle of Russia's top military and political leadership and was one of the first to publicly support the full-scale war against Ukraine."

The Security Service pointed out that Krill uses his Orthodox subordinates in Russia, as well as members of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to spread pro-Russian propaganda.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is subordinate to the Russian church and is not to be confused with the autocephalous (autonomous) Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Ukraine has long accused the Moscow Patriarchate's representatives in Ukraine of serving as the Kremlin's propaganda arm in the war.

Kirill included pro-war narratives in his sermons and other religious services, the SBU noted, drawing attention to his blessing to Russian invasion troops in March last year and other cases seen as justification of Russia's invasion.

The U.K. sanctioned him in June 2022 for backing the war. However, he has evaded EU sanctions due to Hungary's protests.

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