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SBU uncovers pro-Russian disinformation group connected to Moscow-linked Ukrainian church

by Martin Fornusek March 12, 2024 4:45 PM 1 min read
Ukrainian law enforcement officers detain a suspected member of a pro-Russian disinformation group in Kyiv. Photo published on March 12, 2024. (Prosecutor General's Office)
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The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) neutralized a pro-Russian disinformation group in Kyiv whose members included a now-detained priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the SBU's press service said on March 12.

The group of over 15 people, four of whom have already been detained, spread pro-Kremlin narratives in order to destabilize Ukraine and incite religious hatred on the instructions of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the SBU reported.

The UOC-MP is one of the two major Orthodox churches in Ukraine, along with the autocephalous (autonomous) Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The Moscow Patriarchate-linked church has been accused of aligning with the Russian government during the war, which the church's leadership denied.

The SBU called the suspected FSB network "one of the largest ones that have been operating in Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion."

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The detained priest, reportedly the leader of one of the churches in Kyiv and a "member of the Russian intelligence apparatus," coordinated the group's activities, the SBU said.

The Prosecutor General's Office said that the suspects also included heads of public organizations and employees of the UOC-MP's media department.

Law enforcement officials did not name any of the suspects.

The group's tasks included spreading pro-Kremlin content via social media and the church's official websites, which was later picked up and disseminated further by the Russian media, according to the SBU. The content focused on "distorting information" about the transition of the UOC-MP communities to the OCU.

These activities aimed not only to destabilize the socio-political situation within Ukraine but also to discredit the country in the West.

Depending on the scope of their involvement, the alleged members of the group face charges of treason, collaboration, creating a criminal group, inciting religious hatred, and distributing materials justifying Russian aggression.

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