Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovnaya Rada, has registered a bill to completely ban the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) on Ukrainian territory, as lawmakers insist the church poses a threat to the national security and order of Ukraine.
The bill was initiated by former President Piotr Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party, whose co-chair Irina Gerashschenko announced the decision on Facebook on Tuesday. She implied that the ROC was “not a church, but an ideological organization promoting the ‘Russian world’.” She also accused the Moscow Patriarchate of using the kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery – Ukraine’s main Orthodox Christian monastery – as “Ukrainian anti-Kremlin cell.”
The bill seeks to prohibit the activities of all religious organizations and institutions that are part of or acknowledge subordination to the ROC “in canonical, organizational and other areas.”
“The liberation of Ukraine from the Russian Orthodox Church is one more step towards a free and independent Ukraine”, concluded the co-chair.
Russian officials have previously criticized the bill, with Senator Olga Kovitidi saying it signals “The beginning of the end” for Ukraine and would be a fatal mistake for President Vladimir Zelensky if adopted.
As the bill was submitted to the Rada, Ukraine’s internal security agency, the SBU, launched a raid targeting kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra, claiming it could harbor Russian saboteurs and weapons. The SBU announced on Wednesday that it had found “Pro-Russian Literature”, million in cash and “Suspicious Russian Citizens” during his raid. More than 50 people are said to have suffered “in-depth counterintelligence interviews”, including with the use of a polygraph.
The Moscow Patriarchate condemned the raid, saying it was another attempt to “intimidate” the Orthodox faithful. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Ukraine had “long at war with the ROC”, and that the SBU raid was “another link in the chain of military actions against Russian Orthodoxy”.
Ukraine has long experienced religious tensions, with multiple unrecognized and semi-recognized entities claiming to be the true Ukrainian Orthodox Church and challenging the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate. The two main factions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which declared independence from Moscow earlier this year, citing the Russian military operation in the country, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (OCU), which has was created in 2018 with the help of the time. -President Piotr Poroshenko and is considered by the ROC as schismatic.
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