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President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree allowing the National Security and Defense Council to apply sanctions against clergy members of Russian-affiliated religious organizations. The primary target of these measures is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), an affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church which has been subject to multiple raids of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) since Nov. 23.
The list of individuals subject to economic and other restrictions will be published later, according to Zelensky. In his evening address to the nation on Dec. 1, Zelensky had announced that he Security Council also proposed a bill completely banning the activities of the Moscow Patriarchate churches in Ukraine.
The SBU reported on Dec. 2 that it was conducting searches at churches and monasteries of the UOC-MP in Zhytomyr, Rivne, and Zakarpattia oblasts. The security measures aim to counter the subversive activities of the Russian special services in Ukraine, prevent the use of religious communities as a center of the so-called “Russian world,” and protect the population from provocations and terrorist acts, according to the SBU.
During previous raids, the SBU found Russian propaganda and xenophobic literature, Russian passports belonging to senior clergy, and documents with pro-Russian ideological messages at the premises of the UOC-MP.
Despite the UOC-MP’s official statement declaring “independence” from the Russian Orthodox Church in May and “condemning the war,” the church’s agenda and clergy remain intertwined with its Moscow parent, and they officially remain subordinated to the Russian church in the hierarchy of the Orthodox world.