Conflicts & War

Ukrainian prosecutors call for house arrest of ‘pro-Russian’ abbot

Kyiv, Apr 1 (EFE).- Ukrainian security services on Saturday raided the home of Metropolitan Pavlo, former abbot of the Monastery of the Caves in Kyiv, with prosecutors requesting he be held under house arrest for 24 hours on suspicions of inciting religious hatred and denying Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate told a Kyiv court he was “against aggression”, although he stopped short of explicitly holding Russia responsible.

“I have done nothing to be accused of anything. This is a political issue. I have never been on the side of aggression. I am against aggression. And now I am in Ukraine. This is my land,” he said of the SBU’s suspicions.

A forensic linguistic examination found that in his public speeches, Pavlo “repeatedly insulted the religious feelings of Ukrainians, humiliated the opinions of believers of other confessions and tried to stir up hostile feelings towards them, and also made statements justifying or denying the actions of the aggressor country”, the SBU said.

The SBU also made public a snapshot of the cleric’s telephone conversations and sermons.

Pavlo’s detention comes amid a tense standoff between monks and priests at the historic Monastery of the Caves and Ukrainian authorities who want to evict them and take over the administration of the Unesco World Heritage site.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church monks, who have not formally renounced their ties to the Moscow Patriarchate, had until March 29 to vacate the 11th century monastery, which occupies a major role in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but they have refused to leave.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture – which has refused to extend an agreement allowing the monks to run the monastery – has filed a police complaint over the monks’ refusal to give them access, and expects to receive a warrant that would allow them to evict the religious leaders.

For Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other high representatives of the government and security establishment, the eviction of the monks from the Monastery of the Caves and other measures designed to curb Moscow’s influence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are part of “the struggle for the spiritual independence of Ukraine”.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, the SBU has carried out raids on the monastery and other temples from the UOC, whose members claim to be victims of religious persecution.

The SBU says Russian passports, pro-Kremlin propaganda material and bags of cash were found during some of those raids, and Ukrainian security forces have also arrested several priests from the congregation for blessing the invasion from their pulpits and for allegedly providing information to the enemy.

For centuries, the UOC has been at the heart of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and many church leaders publicly expressed their affinity with Moscow until recently.

The UOC broke off ties with the Moscow Patriarchate in May last year, following Patriarch Kiril’s fervent backing of the Kremlin’s invasion.

But critics say that did not go far enough, demanding the clergy switch their allegiance to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is independent of Moscow and is aligned with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. EFE


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