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Minister: Commission created to inspect Moscow-affiliated Pochayiv Lavra monastery
Ukraine's Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said on April 22 that the government had created a commission to inspect the use of the Pochaiv Lavra monastery by the Moscow Patriarchate.
Located in Ternopil Oblast in western Ukraine, the Pochayiv Lavra is the country's second-largest monastery. It is leased by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, an affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Tkachenko said that the ministry is working to have the Pochayiv Lavra under state control.
He also said in March that the Pochaiv Lavra's abbot Volodymyr had blocked state representatives from entering the church. He said criminal proceedings would be opened for preventing the use of state property.
While there have been calls in the Ukrainian parliament to evict the Moscow-backed church from the Pochayiv Lavra, it still holds the lease until 2052.
On April 3, more than 30 members of parliament appealed to the Cabinet of Ministers with a proposal to terminate the Russian-affiliated church's lease on the monastery.
The events follow similar developments at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Ukraine's most important Orthodox monastery.
Previously the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra was completely controlled by the Russian-affiliated church.
The Russian-controlled church's lease on a part of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra - called the Upper Lavra - expired on Jan. 1, and the Ukrainian government decided not to extend the lease. Later the Ukrainian authorities said they would also terminate the Russian-affiliated church's indefinite lease on the remaining part, the Lower Lavra, starting from March 29, accusing it of violating the terms of the lease.
The Russian-backed church argued that the termination of the lease was illegal and refused to leave.
In April Pavlo Lebid, the abbot of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, was charged with inciting religious enmity, as well as with justifying and denying Russian aggression.
Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have raided religious sites of the Moscow Patriarchate across Ukraine and found Russian propaganda, xenophobic literature, as well as Russian passports of the church's leaders.