Ukrainian Orthodox Church Bishop Arrested in the Kiev Regime Christians Persecutions
Senior Ukrainian bishop claims he’s under house arrest
A senior bishop in Ukraine’s most prominent Orthodox monastery, Metropolitan Pavel, has been placed under house arrest and barred from attending services for two months, amid an ongoing religious crackdown and attempts to evict hundreds of monks from the the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.
At a pretrial detention hearing on Saturday, Metropolitan Pavel (secular name Pyotr Lebed), who is accused of harboring pro-Russian sentiment, was ordered to stay in a village 50km from the capital. The hearing was initially postponed after the 61-year-old cleric, who has served as abbot of the monastery since 1994, reported feeling unwell. However, he was brought to court again in the evening, and officially placed under house arrest for 60 days.
The authorities have placed a tracking device on his ankle, videos from the courtroom show. The judge denied Pavel’s plea to remain confined inside the monastery, but also refused the prosecutor’s request to ban him from sharing videos online.
On Saturday, local media reported that during a hearing in a Kiev court, Pavel said he was feeling unwell, leading to the judge postponing the session to Monday.
The SBU said Pavel “insulted the religious feelings of Ukrainians” and “tried to create hostile attitudes” towards members of other religious denominations. The cleric’s house was also raided by SBU operatives, with the bishop summoned for questioning, according to the UOC.
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Metropolitan Pavel has denied the allegations, insisting that he has always condemned Moscow’s military operation and “stood in defense of my motherland.”
The Russian Orthodox Church has denounced the SBU’s crackdown on the bishop. Vladimir Legoida, who heads the Church’s public relations department, claimed that the house arrest was made “on trumped-up charges”and is “a natural continuation of the justice violations” committed by the Ukrainian authorities.
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The Kiev Pechersk Lavra, which is administered by the UOC, is 980 years old and has been the target of a relentless campaign by Ukrainian authorities in recent months. Kiev officials suspect the UOC of covertly supporting the Russian government despite it having proclaimed independence from Moscow after the start of the conflict in February 2022.
The crackdown culminated last month when Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture claimed, without providing any proof, that the UOC violated the 2013 agreement which allowed it to administer the monastery, with the monks ordered to vacate the premises. However, the UOC refused to comply, describing the order as “unlawful.”
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Ukraine’s push to evict the monks has sparked tensions between supporters and opponents of the UOC. On Saturday, local media shared footage of a brief clash between the two groups near the site.
Ukraine has long experienced religious tensions, with a number of entities claiming to be the true Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The two main rival factions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Kiev-backed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which is considered by the Russian Orthodox Church to be schismatic.
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In January 2023, the government evicted the UOC from the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church adjacent to the Lavra, and immediately gave permission to the OCU to hold a Christmas service there.
Moscow has repeatedly condemned President Vladimir Zelensky’s crackdown as persecution of Orthodox Christianity. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova remarked on Saturday that April Fools’ Day was held “with great fanfare in Kiev,” sharing a video of a crowd of protesters dancing around a woman who was praying on her knees in the middle of the street.
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The developments around the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra will be the moment of truth, which will show if the people of Ukraine are ready to stand up for their values, Rodion Miroshnik, former ambassador of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) to Moscow, told TASS on Saturday.
“It would have suited [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky best if the expulsion of Orthodox Christians from churches had gone quietly, without any protests, without showing the entire world that the dictator went far further than many other vile despots. Brandishing a club, he went against the traditional religious denomination, against the 1,000-year history of Eastern Orthodoxy in Rus. Now it is the moment of truth for the Ukrainians: whether they are ready to stand up to defend their values or agree to crawl on their knees,” he said.
According to Miroshnik, the Ukrainian authorities “believe that now is the right time to finalize the process of dehumanization of the Ukrainians, by neglecting the norms of law, morality, and conscience, by turning arms against civilians.”
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“They have already been deprived of their native language and history, and taking away their faith will turn the people into a herd. And this herd can be raced into any slaughterhouse, Zelensky thinks that if he backs down on the Lavra, it will be perceived as his weakness, so he will resort to any tactics, including dispersals and arrests, as well as jailing, hunting and assassinating leaders,” the former ambassador added.
The situation around the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra escalated to the boiling point after the monks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church had refused to leave the monastery by order of the directorate of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Historical and Cultural Reserve.
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On March 30, a commission of the Ukrainian Culture Ministry arrived at the Lavra for a property inventory but the clergy led by Metropolitan Pavel alongside parishioners did not let them in, and did the same on the following day.
On Friday, scuffles broke out near the walls of the monastery, and there were reports about a potential attack. On Saturday, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) charged Metropolitan Pavel with inciting religious hatred and justifying Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
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