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Ukrainian security service accuses Orthodox cleric of supporting Russia


Ukrainian law enforcement officers stand next to an entrance to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery compound, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine November 22, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukraine’s SBU security service accused a senior Orthodox Christian cleric on Friday of engaging in anti-Ukrainian activity by supporting Russian policies in social media posts.

Its announcement followed a series of raids of property used by a Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church that is historically tied to Russia and has come under increasing pressure since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The SBU said in a statement that an archbishop in a diocese in western Ukraine had distributed posts that “humiliated the national honour and dignity of Ukrainians” and “contributed to the incitement of religious enmity and hatred”.

It accused the cleric, whom it did not name, of using an anonymous profile on Facebook to spread “narratives of Russian propagandists”. It gave no further details of the posts.

The Orthodox Church in Russia has backed Moscow’s invasion, and Kyiv says some clerics in Ukraine could be taking orders from Moscow.

Orthodox Church officials in Ukraine did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the latest SBU statement.

A spokesperson for the church said last week that it had always acted within the framework of Ukrainian law and that the state had no legal grounds to put pressure on its followers.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described the authorities in Kyiv last week as “satanists” and “enemies of Christ and the Orthodox faith”.

The SBU also said it had searched a church on Friday in Boryspil outside the capital Kyiv, and on Thursday searched several churches and monasteries where it said it had found pro-Russian publications.

Orthodox Christians account for the majority of Ukraine’s population. Since the collapse of Soviet rule, competition has been fierce between the Moscow-subordinated church and an independent Ukrainian church.