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Ukraine updates: Orthodox monks in Kyiv refuse eviction

March 30, 2023

The Orthodox monks accused of Russia links have been ordered out of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery. But they refuse to vacate the complex. DW has the latest.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery complex
The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery is Ukraine's most revered Orthodox siteImage: Andrew Kravchenko/AP/picture alliance

Orthodox monks who've been ordered out of a monastery in Kyiv refused to leave on Wednesday, as a deadline to vacate the complex expired.

The dispute over the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, Ukraine's most revered Orthodox site, is part of a wider religious conflict playing out in parallel with the war.

The monks using the property belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which has been accused of links to Russia.

But the site is owned by the Ukrainian government, and the agency overseeing the property notified the UOC earlier this month that, as of March 29, it was terminating the lease.

Metropolitan Pavel, an abbot of the monastic complex, told worshippers that the UOC would not leave the site pending the outcome of a lawsuit it filed in a Kyiv court last week to stop the eviction.

No attempts to evict the monks were made on Wednesday but Pavel said the UOC had been notified that the handover of the property would begin on Thursday.

The Ukrainian government has been cracking down on the UOC over its historic ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader, Patriarch Kirill, has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin in the invasion of Ukraine.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning the war in Ukraine on Thursday, March 30:

'Ukraine is defending not just Ukraine, but Moldova as well'

"Ukraine has managed to fight back, to resist, to liberate some territories. By doing so they also offered Moldova a greater degree of security than we feared a year ago. Through its actions, through its courage, Ukraine is defending not just Ukraine, but Moldova as well," Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said during an interview on DW's Conflict Zone.

He added that the country was drastically rethinking military neutrality.

"Moldova needs and has already started changing its security and defense policy. We've been increasing our security and defense capabilities," he said.

He added that entry into the European Union was now of paramount importance and that even political groups in the country that had been sympathetic to Moscow before the invasion were changing their tunes.

"Even those parties, which before were openly pro-Moscow, want to live in a country that is democratic, where they have the freedom to protest," Popescu said.

‘By defending itself, Ukraine is defending Moldova’

Kyiv acknowledges Bakhmut defeats

The Ukrainian government has conceded that Russian soldiers and mercenaries have made gains in the small but strategically important eastern city of Bakhmut, a day after a US think tank suggested that Moscow's forces now control 65% of the area.

"Enemy forces had a degree of success in their actions aimed at storming the city of Bakhmut," the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in an overnight report. "Our defenders are holding the city and are repelling numerous enemy attacks."

However, the military said, Russian troops continued to take on more casualties than the Ukrainian side. On Wednesday, the head of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin had acknowledged that his forces had suffered significant losses.

Months of fierce fighting in and around the city have turned Bakhmut into the site of the most significant ground battle in Europe since World War II. Observers have noted that the strength of the Russian offensive is beginning to wane, and questioning whether they can keep it up in the coming weeks.

Inside the trenches and hospitals of Bakhmut

Russia UN Security Council presidency 'a bad joke'

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba commented on Twitter how laughable it was that Moscow would take over the rotating helm of the UN Security Council.

"Russian UN Security Council presidency on April 1 is a bad joke. Russia has usurped its seat; it's waging a colonial war; its leader is a war criminal wanted by the ICC for kidnapping children," Kuleba wrote.

He added that "the world can't be a safe place with Russia at UNSC."

Ukraine has repeatedly called for Russia's permanent seat on the council to be revoked since the start of the invasion. With its new position, Moscow will not be able to take any unilateral decisions but will greatly influence the council's agenda.

Leadership of the council changes every month, but Russia has not been in charge since February 2022, the month it launched the invasion.

Wall Street Journal reporter detained in Russia for spying

A reporter for The Wall Street Journal has been detained in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg over suspicions of espionage, the Interfax news agency said on Thursday, citing the Federal Security Service (FSB).

"The FSB halted the illegal activities of US citizen Gershkovich Evan ... a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, accredited with the Russian Foreign Ministry, suspected of spying in the interests of the American government," an FSB statement said, according to Russian news agencies.

The statement said Gershkovich had been tasked "by the American side" with gathering information on "the activities of one of the enterprises of the military-defense complex." 

The FSB provided no evidence of the charges against the reporter. A court began a closed hearing on the application for his formal arrest later on Thursday. The reporter's lawyer, Daniil Berman, said he had not be allowed inside the courtroom during the arraignment hearing because it had been classed as "top secret."

In a statement, the court said that it was detaining Gershkovich for "one month and 29 days."

The WSJ has expressed concern about their employee's safety, saying it "vehemently denies" the charges against him and called for his "immediate release."


Evan Gershkovich
Russian authorities accredited Gershkovich to work as a journalist in the countryImage: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP

Russia detains man sentenced to prison after daughter's anti-war picture

Alexei Moskalyov, who was sentenced to two years in prison for discrediting the Russian military and whose daughter was taken into state care, has been detained after fleeing house arrest, human rights activist and lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

Moskalyov was prosecuted for social media posts following an anti-war drawing made by his daughter that depicted missiles flying over a Russian flag at a woman and child and said "No to war" and "Glory to Ukraine."

Earlier, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano tweeted that Moskalyov's sentence was "a total disgrace."

Child's drawing of a woman and a child stranding on a green hill under the sun, flanked by two flags, with two  missiles flying at them
Masha was 12 when she drew this pictureImage: Maria Moskaleva

Russia stops sharing missile test info with US

Russia will no longer give the US advance notice about its missile tests as envisioned under a nuclear pact the Kremlin has suspended, a senior Moscow diplomat said Wednesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies that Moscow has halted all information exchanges with Washington under the last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the US after suspending its participation in it last month.

Along with the data about the current state of the countries' nuclear forces routinely released every six months in compliance with the New START treaty, the parties also had exchanged advance warnings about test launches and deployments of their nuclear weapons.

Such notices have been an essential element of strategic stability for decades, allowing Russia and the United States to correctly interpret each other's moves and make sure that neither country mistakes a test launch for a missile attack.

Meanwhile, as part of the Russian drills that began Wednesday, Yars mobile missile launchers will maneuver across three regions of Siberia, Russia's Defense Ministry said. The movements will involve measures to conceal the deployment from foreign satellites and other intelligence assets, the ministry said.

Spain to send six Leopard tanks to Ukraine in coming weeks

Spain plans to supply Ukraine with 10 German-made Leopard battle tanks of the older 2A4 type  with six to arrive in the next two weeks  but will not send Kyiv fighter jets, Defense Minister Margarita Robles said.

Ukrainian troops eager to try Western tanks

The other four tanks will have to be sent at a later date because they must undergo repairs to make them fit for service, she said during a parliamentary debate on Spanish military aid to Ukraine.

The dispatch of fighter jets was "categorically" ruled out by the minister. She said Spain does not have F-16 fighter jets of the type Ukraine would like to obtain. Other models are out of the question because Ukrainian pilots would need a training period of up to two years, Robles argued in the lower house of parliament.

Ukraine hits city inside Russian-controlled territory

Russian authorities said Ukrainian forces had struck a railway depot and knocked out power in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region.

The city lies around 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the frontline and analysts have said it could be a target for a highly-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.

dh,es/sri (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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