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SBU charges Russian Orthodox Church's head over promoting Kremlin's aggression

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 4, 2023 11:02 AM 2 min read
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during the Easter Mass at the Christ The Saviour Cathedral on April 24, 2022, in Moscow, Russia. (Getty Images)
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Ukraine's Security Service (SBU) has charged Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Vladimir Gundyayev) with promoting Russia's aggression and undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, the SBU announced on Nov. 4.

The primate of the Russian Orthodox Church is a "member of the inner circle of Russia's top military and political leadership and was one of the first to publicly support a full-scale war against Ukraine," the SBU said.

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 also 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 Russian church's leader was charged with undermining Ukraine's territorial integrity, justification of Moscow's aggression, and "planning, preparation, initiation and waging of an aggressive war."

A staunch supporter of Vladimir Putin, Kirill reportedly served as a spy for the Soviet-era secret police KGB while living in Geneva as the official representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches (WCC).

He was sanctioned by the U.K. in June for backing the war. However, he has evaded EU sanctions due to Hungary's protests.

In June 2022, Kirill said that Russian troops fighting against Ukraine were "protecting Russia…guided by an inner moral feeling based on the Orthodox faith." Kirill told his followers in September last year that Russians fighting in Ukraine were doing a "heroic deed" by fighting in Ukraine and "blessed" the war effort.

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