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UPDATED: SBU charges metropolitan of Moscow-linked church with inciting religious hatred

by Martin Fornusek May 1, 2024 10:31 AM 2 min read
Metropolitan Luka (Andrii Kovalenko), the metropolitan bishop of Zaporizhzhia and Melitopol of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). (UOC-MP in Zaporizhzhia Oblast)
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Editor's note: The article was updated after the SBU announced charges against Andrii Kovalenko.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) charged Metropolitan Luka (Andrii Kovalenko) of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian church with inciting religious hatred, the SBU's press service said on May 1.

Earlier the same day, sources in law enforcement agencies told the Kyiv Independent that SBU is carrying out searches at Kovalenko, without specifying the reason.

Kovalenko is the metropolitan bishop of Zaporizhzhia and Melitopol of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP).

The SBU press service said that Kovalenko had expressed contempt for followers of other religious denominations during church services and insulted other religions on his Telegram channel.

Chesno, a public transparency-focused Ukrainian NGO, accused Kovalenko of spreading pro-Russian propaganda and justifying Moscow's aggression against Ukraine.

In 2023, Kovalenko said that the Soviet persecution against the church in the era of Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev was insignificant compared to "what is happening now in Ukraine," Chesno wrote.

Ukrainian authorities have stepped in against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate after widespread evidence of collusion of some of its members with Russian invading forces.

Other religious groups, such as the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) and other Christian and non-Christian organizations, operate freely in Ukraine, except for territories occupied by Russia, where they face heavy persecution.

Kovalenko also reportedly said in 2022 that Ukrainians deserved Russian strikes and shelling because they tolerated gay parades in Kyiv.

Ukrainian authorities sanctioned Kovalenko and six other members of the UOC-MP in December 2022.

Faith under fire: Russia’s war on religion in Ukraine’s occupied territories
Russia’s war and occupation of large swaths of Ukraine have led to hundreds of churches being damaged or destroyed, dozens of priests killed or kidnapped, and entire religious groups that don’t conform to Moscow’s brand of Orthodoxy being banned. With entire Ukrainian cities being leveled by Russia…
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