President Vladimir Zelensky has ordered personal sanctions on senior figures in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). The Kiev government launched a crackdown on the denomination last year, claiming that it harbored Russian agents.
The order published by the Ukrainian president’s workplace on Wednesday enacts a motion issued by the Nationwide Security and Defense Council to seize assets and to impose other restrictions on ten individuals.
The list includes Metropolitan (Bishop) Pavel of Vyshgorod plus Chernobyl, the senior cleric in Ukraine’s most notable Orthodox monastery, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, and retired Metropolitan Yelisei of Izium and Kupiansk. It also targets several priests of the Russian Orthodox Church whose parishes are located in Crimea, along with Ukrainian businessman Vadim Novinsky, who holds the office of the deacon in the UOC.
The security council is slapping sanctions in a similar way on individuals who allegedly pose the threat to Ukraine. Critics of Zelensky say he could be using the body, which he or she controls, to persecute political opponents.
The particular UOC, which has historic ties with the Russian Orthodox Chapel, has been targeted by a crackdown since November. Then the domestic security agency SBU started raiding monasteries and other church property, reportedly looking for proof of collusion with Russia. Chapels may be hiding saboteurs, stockpiling weapons or be or else involved in treason, the agency alleged.
This month media in Ukraine revealed that Zelensky had stripped 13 UOC priests of their Ukrainian citizenship after imposing personal sanctions with them. Reports said the presidential order depriving them of their status was issued privately in late December. The list, released by news outlets, included some bishops previously raided by the SBU.
Ukraine has experienced religious turmoil for decades, with some priests breaking away from the UOC to form schismatic organizations. Probably the most prominent splits took place in 2018 and was widely perceived in the country as an attempt by then-President Pyotr Poroshenko’s to boost his reelection probabilities.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which was established as a result, continues to be pushing the Ukrainian authorities for aid in taking over the UOC’s parishes and real estate.
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