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SBU charges bishop of Kremlin-linked church with assisting Russian occupation authorities

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 12, 2024 4:19 PM 2 min read
Vasyl Povorozniuk, metropolitan of the Luhansk Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), during a church service on Apr. 24, 2022. (Russian-controlled Luhansk Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church)
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Vasyl Povorozniuk, metropolitan of the Luhansk Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), has been accused of cooperating with Russian occupation authorities in Luhansk, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported on Jan. 12.

Ukraine has long accused the Moscow Patriarchate's representatives in Ukraine of serving as an arm of the Kremlin's propaganda in the war. Some "rank-and-file" clergymen have also been convicted of directly assisting Russian troops.

The SBU charged Povorozniuk in absentia under Article 111-2 of the Criminal Code, which covers "assistance to the aggressor state." He was previously sanctioned by Ukraine.

According to the investigation, the bishop was present at a ceremony in Moscow in September 2022, where Russian dictator Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions. At the ceremony, the bishop reportedly supported Russia's war against Ukraine and the annexation.

Russia only partly occupies the four oblasts and controls the capitals in just two of them. Donetsk and Luhansk have been occupied since Russia's first invasion of the Donbas in 2014.

In May of the same year, Povorozniuk attended a meeting held by Leonid Pasichnyk, the head of the Moscow-installed illegal occupation administration in Luhansk, the SBU wrote.

"Then, filmed by Russian TV channels, Povorozniuk, together with (Chechen leader Ramzan) Kadyrov's adviser, advocated the adoption of a so-called resolution, which spread fakes about Ukrainian soldiers and the situation at the front."

Povorozniuk also "heroized the Russian occupiers and called for the continuation of the war against Ukraine" in multiple interviews for Russian state media, added the SBU.

Since the bishop is currently in the Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine, the SBU said it's "taking comprehensive measures" to bring him to justice.

Ukraine has two main Orthodox churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the autocephalous (autonomous) Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is subordinate to the Russian Orthodox Church and has been accused of aligning with the Russian government during the war, which the church's leadership has denied.

The SBU accused Metropolitan Pavlo, a senior member of the clergy of the UOC-MP, of being involved in subversive activities against Ukraine on Oct. 20.

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