Ukraine’s counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence authorities expressed concern that some of the country’s Orthodox Christian religious leaders may be connected with Russian covert operations.
Basis for the Suspicion
The Ukrainian security forces (SBU) led by Vasil Maliuk issued the statement in the aftermath of a probe in Pechersk Lavra, an Orthodox Christian monastery complex in Kyiv listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The monastery was the site of a recent tense search by Ukrainian government security agents due to a priest’s public statement of support for Russia.
“Those who, in the conditions of a full-scale war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, are waiting for the ‘awakening of Mother Rus’ should understand that this harms the security and interests of Ukraine and our citizens. And we will not allow such manifestations,” Maliuk explained.
According to a San Diego Tribune report, government security forces searched some 350 buildings inside the complex, as well as other facilities in Rivne and another monastery close to the capital Kyiv.
Ukraine’s SBU agents reportedly found some pro-Moscow documents when they searched the diocese facilities last week. SBU explained that the searches form part of their agency’s “systematic work to counter the subversive activities of the Russian special services in Ukraine.”
The news outlet added that while Ukrainian Orthodox Church leaders have publicly called for Ukrainian sovereignty amid the ongoing Russian invasion, others seem to favor the current intrusion.
The report said Ukrainian authorities believe such religious facilities serve as hideouts for undercover Russian spies and special forces.
SBU officials said they subjected at least 50 individuals to polygraph tests and interviews on Wednesday to determine whether they have actual ties to Russian special forces agents deployed in the country or to Moscow agents directing anti-Ukraine offensives.
The security officials added that they probed foreigners, including Russians, who did not have valid documents with them.
Dmitry Peskov, Russia’s spokesperson, blasted the operations conducted by Ukrainian security officers. Peskov said the Ukrainians were “waging a war on the Russian Orthodox Church.”
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Division Within Ukraine’s Orthodox Christian Community
The article bared that there is an ongoing division within the country’s Orthodox Christian community relative to the Ukraine-Russia war.
While the religious denomination is the biggest in Ukraine, its leaders do not necessarily have a unified stand about the ongoing armed hostilities between the two countries.
Several high-ranking Ukrainian Orthodox Christian prelates expressed disgust over Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, while others support Russia’s narrative of having “political and spiritual hegemony” over Ukraine.
According to professor Archimandrite Cyril Hovorun of the University College Stockholm’s Sankt Ignatios College, Ukraine’s security agency has currently shown deference to the country’s Orthodox Christian leaders.
Previously, government forces were not as accommodating to the latter as they investigated some Ukrainian Orthodox Christian key personalities.
Hovorun explained that the country’s citizens feel that Orthodox church officials should be treated like everyone else.
“Some key metropolitans of the Ukrainian church were quite famous and notorious for supporting publicly the ‘Russian world’ ideology. It’s not a secret,” Hovorun, a Ukrainian Orthodox priest, explained.
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