A priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate blessed Russian soldiers during the Russian occupation of Kharkiv Oblast, Security Service (SBU) reported on April 4.
The church official organized a procession to commemorate the Baptism of Kyivan Rus and prompted local residents in Kupiansk to attend.
During the "service," he blessed Russian forces and consecrated their convoys of military equipment. It is suspected that he used the religious service as a guise to urge locals to support the occupation.
According to the SBU, the church official ordered his colleagues to record the entire event on camera for later publication on Kremlin media resources.
The church official fled to Russia following the liberation of Kharkiv Oblast, the SBU wrote.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is not to be confused with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was granted autocephaly (ecclesiastical independence) by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople in January 2019.
Recently, Kyiv ordered the religious leaders from the Moscow Patriarchate to leave the premises of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the church's stronghold.
The Khmelnytskyi Сity Сouncil also revoked the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate's land rights on April 4 after a military officer was assaulted at their place of worship.
Ukraine has long accused the Moscow Patriarchate's representatives in Ukraine of serving as the Kremlin's propaganda arm on the religious front.