Ukraine is applying ‘criminal logic’ in expelling monks from the Canonical Orthodox Church, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says
Religious freedom is being held hostage by Ukrainian authorities, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. She was commenting on attempts to evict the monks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Canonical Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC) from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra Monastery, which is considered the most important Orthodox Christian site in the country.
Asked about the planned expulsion on Tuesday, Ukrainian Culture Minister Aleksandr Tkachenko said senior clergy and church administrators should be the first to go, as they had. illegal construction at Laura. “We can talk about the rest after that,” he added.
UOC monks at the Lavra, who refuse to leave the monastery and call the expulsion order illegal, “always the choice” Tkachenko continued. Their position can “dramatically change” once the leadership of the Moscow-linked church leaves the monastery, he suggested.
Zakharova took to Telegram on Wednesday, saying the Ukrainian minister was basically saying monks could only stay at the Lavra “if they go over to the side of the schismatics.” She was referring to the Non-Canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was established by the Kyiv government after the country’s 2014 coup.
By making such statements, the Kyiv authorities were openly admitting “criminal logic” behind their actions, she wrote.
“Freedom of religion is being held hostage by bandits on Bankovaya Street”, Zakharova said, referring to the location of the Ukrainian president’s office.
On Friday, Vladimir Zelensky’s government, which supports the OCU, told the Lavra monks they had until March 29 to leave the monastery, saying the clerics had violated the 2013 agreement, under which the state authorized them to administer the national heritage site.
Zelensky said the move was to protect Ukraine “spiritual independence” insisting that kyiv would not allow Moscow “to manipulate the spirituality of our people.”
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill had earlier protested the expulsion plans. These would be “lead to a violation of the rights of millions of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful”, he wrote in a letter to the UN and religious leaders around the world, including Pope Francis.
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