Russian Orthodox leader and staunch Kremlin ally Patriarch Kirill on Thursday denounced the impending expulsion of monks from a kyiv monastery over his ties to Russia.
Ukraine announced last week the termination of the lease that allowed the church to occupy part of the 11th-century Pechersk Monastery free of charge, but the monks said they would not move.
“The state ultimatum on the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra represents a monstrous act,” Kirill said in a video statement.
Ukrainian media reported that the monks were given a March 29 expulsion deadline.
The ancient golden-domed religious complex overlooking the Dnipro River is the country’s most important Orthodox monastery, with a population of monks that were until recently under Moscow’s jurisdiction.
The branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has announced a severance of ties with the Russian Orthodox Church after its leader, Patriarch Kirill, backed the Moscow offensive last year.
The Kyiv government does not believe the Church completely severed relations with the Moscow Patriarchate and raided the buildings last year.
Kirill called on people to “do everything possible to prevent the forced closure of the monastery”.
He said the decision “would lead to the violation of the rights of millions of Ukrainian believers to freedom of religion, guaranteed by the constitution of Ukraine.”