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The Ukrainian government has completed the process of transferring control of parts of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Ukraine's most significant Orthodox monastery, from the Russian-controlled Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to the state, according to Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko.
A commission composed of representatives from the National Nature Reserve, the Miller Law Company, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Culture Ministry representatives carried out the transfer, which included inventorying the property and preparing a technical inspection report for two buildings.
The Russian-controlled church's lease on the part of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, including the main Dormition Cathedral, expired on Jan. 1.
"This Ukrainian shrine should serve the entire Ukrainian people, and we will adhere to this principle in the future," Tkachenko wrote on Telegram.
The UOC-MP has faced backlash in recent months due to its deep and long-standing ties to Russia, as well as the discovery of Russian passports, anti-Ukrainian propaganda, and stolen icons during nationwide raids on its religious sites. Searches have also taken place at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.
Despite claiming independence from the Russian Orthodox Church in May and condemning the ongoing war in Ukraine, the UOC-MP remains subordinated to Moscow in the hierarchy of the Orthodox world.
On Dec. 1, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the start of a procedure to ban activities of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.
A day later, the Ukrainian government registered a legal entity supposed to manage the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra on behalf of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is competing with the Russian-backed church.
On the Dec. 12, President Volodymyr Zelensky also imposed sanctions against Pavlo Lebid, head of the Russian-affiliated church's Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and an ex-lawmaker from the pro-Russian Party of Regions, among others. Lebid has held consistent pro-Russian views, calling for "unity" with Russia and having stated that "Crimea has never been Ukrainian."