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Ukrainian court places Orthodox cleric under house arrest

April 1, 2023

The monks in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery of Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been accused of having links to Russia. The abbot of the monastery was placed under house arrest for 60 days.

Metropolitan Pavlo Lebid
During a court hearing , Metropolitan Pavlo rejected the claim by the Security Service of Ukraine, that he condoned Russia's invasionImage: Pavlo Bagmut/Avalon/Photoshot/picture alliance

A court in Kyiv on Saturday put Metropolitan Pavlo, the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, under house arrest for 60 days, Ukrainian news media reported.

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

Earlier on Saturday, the Security Service of Ukraine, known as SBU, notified Pavlo that he was suspected of two criminal offenses: inciting inter-religious enmity and justifying Russian aggression.

"The law and the responsibility for violating it are the same for everyone and a cassock is no guarantee of pure intentions," SBU chief Vasyl Maliuk  said in a statement, accusing Russia of using religion "to promote propaganda and divide Ukrainian society."

Russian Patriarch Kirill supports Putin's war

Pavlo curses Zelenskyy with 'damnnation'

Earlier in the week, Pavlo had resisted the authorities' order to vacate the complex and cursed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, threatening him with damnation.

SBU agents raided Pavlo's residence and prosecutors asked the court to put him under house arrest pending the investigation.

During the court hearing in the Ukrainian capital, the cleric rejected the claim by the Security Service of Ukraine, that he condoned Russia's invasion. Pavlo described the accusations against him as politically driven.

In the meantime, two protests took place near the monastery, one by Pavlo's supporters and one against him.

Conflict over famed monastery

The monks in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been accused of having links to Russia. The dispute surrounding the property, also known as the Monastery of the Caves, is part of a wider religious conflict that has unfolded in parallel with the war.

The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery is the most famed Orthodox monastery in Ukraine. It is owned by the Ukrainian government, and the agency overseeing it notified the monks that it was terminating the lease and they had until Wednesday to leave.

Metropolitan Pavlo told worshippers Wednesday that the monks would not leave pending the outcome of a lawsuit the UOC filed in a Kyiv court to stop the eviction. The government claims that the monks violated their lease by making to the historic site and other technical infractions. The monks rejected the claim as a pretext.

Ukraine's Orthodox Church cuts Russia ties

Two Orthodox churches in one country

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has insisted that it's loyal to Ukraine and has denounced the Russian invasion fro the start. The church declared its independence from Moscow, but Ukrainian security agencies say some in the UOC have maintained close ties with Moscow. 

According to surveys, most Ukrainian believers belong to the rival Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which more than four years ago received recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

Bartholomew I is considered the first among equals among the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches. Patriarch Kirill and most other Orthodox patriarchs have refused to accept his decision authorizing the second Ukrainian church.

dh/jcg (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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