An Orthodox leader at the Pechersk Monastery in Kiev is under investigation for accusing him of “inciting religious hatred” and “justifying and denying Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine,” Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said in a statement Saturday. ”
As part of the investigation, the SBU said it found that Metropolitan Pavlo Peter Lebid had “repeatedly insulted the religious sensibilities of Ukrainians in public speeches, insulted the views of followers of other faiths and sought to create a hostile attitude towards them.” , and a statement to prove or deny the actions of the aggressor State.”
The SBU said “investigative action” was taken at the metropolitan residence. According to the SBU, the operation was carried out under the supervision of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.
“The enemy is trying to use the ecclesiastical environment to promote its propaganda and divide Ukrainian society. But we will not give him (the enemy) a chance! The SBU systematically blocks all attempts by Russian agents to use their agents to harm Ukraine’s interests and security,” SBU head Vasyl Malyuk said in a statement.
Here’s what led to the investigation: Metropolitan Pavlo is abbot of the 980-year-old monastery, which is home to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), an offshoot of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church traditionally loyal to Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and a supporter of his war on Ukraine.
Tensions over the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra intensified following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the agreement allowing the UOC to occupy the historic complex was terminated on March 10. UOC was directed to leave the premises on 29 March.
In May 2022, the UOC severed ties with Moscow and declared “full independence”, although some members remained loyal.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church said the metropolitan attended a court hearing on Monday but felt unwell and had to go to the hospital.
More background: Since Russia’s incursion began in 2022, Ukrainian security services said they had activated more than 40 “comprehensive counterintelligence and security measures” in the UOC’s church environment, “designed to stop the destructive activities of pro-Russian clergy.”
As a result of the measures taken by the SBU, 61 criminal proceedings were initiated against 61 clergy, the agency said. “In total, the court has handed down seven sentences against individual clerics who sided with the enemy, including two who were exchanged for our military,” it said.
Based on the SBU investigation, 17 UOC officials were sanctioned by Kiev and nearly 250 Russian Orthodox clergy were barred from entering Ukraine, the agency said.
Ukraine also terminated the citizenship of 19 UOC clerics who were dual Ukrainian-Russian citizens, forcing them to leave the country, the SBU said.