Ukrainian police raid Orthodox monastery


Eastern Europe


The Ukrainian security services raided several religious buildings on Tuesday. Photo SBU

Ukrainian security forces raided the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra Orthodox monastery in Kyiv on Tuesday. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in a statement that it was a crackdown on the dangerous activities of Russian secret services in Ukraine.

The operation aims to prevent the monastery from being used as a cell of the "Russian world".

The National Police and the National Guard searched several territories and no less than 850 buildings. According to the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the operation is broader than just in the monastery.

They are investigating reports that the premises belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) are being used as a Russian cell or for storing weapons, the SBU clarified in its statement.

On Wednesday morning, Risu reported that several things were taken for further research, such as pro-Russian literature, including propaganda of the "Russian world". The SBU also met many Russian people on the premises without proper identification.

The SBU also posted a video of the operation. The services claim that the operation was within the limits of the "current legislation" respecting religious freedom and the Constitution of Ukraine.

The UOC is connected to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and, therefore, is under suspicion of being loyal to the Kremlin invasion of Ukraine. In its expressions, however, the UOC has always been firmly against the Russian war. On Tuesday, it was repeated by clergy people that the UOC is against Russia. "We are loyal to Ukraine", said Archpriest Mikhail Pitnitsky to the media. "We are for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, for victory and the liberation of the country from the aggressor."

The Ukrainian church tried to distance itself as much as possible from the Moscow Patriarchate last May. However, the UOC is still not entirely independent from the Moscow church. In the meantime, however, it is still possible that individual priests in the UOC can sympathise with the Kremlin. Even on Wednesday, Risu reported that a UOC priest in Donetsk was accused of collaboration with the Russian army.


A few weeks ago, the monastery attracted attention because of the singing of Matka Rus during a liturgy. This song is a praise of the "Russian world". Amid the Ukrainian capital during the war, this was received as propaganda for the enemy. For that reason, the SBU started criminal proceedings.

Entering the famous monastery. Photo SBU

The monastery's leadership tried to distance itself from the incident immediately by stating that Father Zacharias was forbidden to lead the liturgy again. The song that he sang had a "worldly" character and had nothing to do with worship at all, reports Ria Novosti. The UOC does not support the political vision of the "Russian world"; however, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow does that.

The monastery Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra is one of the most prestigious symbols of the Ukrainian church. Part of the building is the residence of Metropolitan Onufry, the spiritual head of the UOC.

The monastery's foundation was laid in 1051 on the hills near Kyiv, very soon after the baptism of king Vladimir Rus in 988. Since 1990, the monastery has been part of the world heritage.

The title "lavra" means that this monastery is one of the four religious centres of the Russian Orthodox Church. The word "pechersk" points to caves that are part of the monastery's foundation.


The UOC is not the only Orthodox church in Ukraine. Since 2019, there is also the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (with the abbreviation OCU). This church stays in contact with the central Orthodox patriarchate in Constantinople. The OCU was established under the political leadership of President Poroshenko. Poroshenko sought as much independence from Russia as possible.

The traditional Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Churches in the country, however, never accepted the legality of this new church. They stated that those decisions should be negotiated with the official church on that territory.

The Ukrianian church says, it is loyal to the government. Photo SBU

According to the church constitution, having more than one Orthodox church in an area is impossible. But since then, Ukraine has. In the Kremlin discourse, this is part of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

According to Ria Novosti, the UOC is afraid that the OCU uses this 'scandal' to get hold of the world-famous monastery. The official Russian Orthodox Church reaction is that the SBU search is "intimidation", according to Interfax and "lawlessness", according to the Institute of Religion and Policy.



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