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Moscow Patriarchate representatives again block access to Kyiv monastery

by The Kyiv Independent news desk March 31, 2023 7:23 PM 2 min read
This audio is created with AI assistance

A commission of Ukraine's Culture Ministry charged with conducting an inventory of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra property was once again denied access by representatives of the Russian-controlled Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), RFE/RL reported.

Members of the commission were also denied entry into the Lavra a day before on March 30. When they arrived for the inspection, one of the buildings was locked and the parishioners had blocked the entrance to the facility.

Earlier, on March 29, the day the members of the UOC-MP were supposed to leave, Metropolitan Pavlo held a service in the Lavra and later stated that they do not plan on leaving the Lavra.

“The law is on our side. We will stay in the Lavra until the trial is over. We have a long-term contract that cannot be terminated during wartime,” said Metropolitan Pavlo.

Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said a complaint had been filed with the police over the obstruction of the commission's work. The minister said that if such behavior continues, the authorities will go into court.

“If the irresponsible behavior and obstruction of access to facilities continues even after this court decision, then law enforcement agencies will have to interfere,” said the minister.

Meanwhile, the abbot of the UOC-MP in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavlo claimed in a video that the Lavra was allegedly going to be ‘stormed’ on March 31 at 5:30 PM, Kyiv time.

On March 10, the Culture Ministry issued a statement saying monks from the UOC-MP must leave the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Ukraine’s most important Orthodox monastery, by March 29, when the Moscow Patriarchate’s lease expires.

Last November, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies raided the Lavra to conduct "counterintelligence" operation over alleged "subversive activities of the Russian special services in Ukraine." Orthodox priests have been arrested in Ukraine, accused of working for Russia's intelligence services.

The Moscow-controlled church was at one point the dominating religious organization in Ukraine. The church's influence was undermined in 2018 when Eastern Orthodox authorities declared Ukraine's own church independent of Moscow. That influence has only further decreased with the start of Russia's full-scale invasion.

Russia purges non-Kremlin-aligned churches from occupied territories
Russians have started to forcibly integrate religious centers in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine into Kremlin-controlled churches and mosques, the Ukrainian military’s National Resistance Center reported on Dec. 26.

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