Russian churches in Ukraine might have bank accounts blocked, expert says


Eastern Europe


The Russian metropolitan in the church in Ukraine is greeted by the people. Photo AFP, Sergei Supinsky

The National Agency for Religious Affairs of Ukraine may block the bank accounts of the Russian Church in Ukraine if it continues to ignore the legislation requiring the renaming of its parishes.

This was stated in an interview with the website Religna Pravda by the former head of the Committee on Religions and Nationalities, religious analyst Oleksandr Sagan from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The news portal on the Orthodox Churches, Ekklesia Online reports about this.

According to the Ekklesia Online’s interpretation of Sagan’s words, this would be the consequence of a law passed in 2018 that states that all religious organizations that have their headquarters in Russia must mention that in their official name. Under Ukrainian law, all parishes are separate legal entities with their statutes.

He even recalled that until 2007 the statute of the so-called “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” (in fact, the Russian Church in Ukraine) stated that it belonged to the Moscow Patriarchate. This report was then removed.

So today, if a parish does not apply the provisions of the law –and in the case of the Russian Church in Ukraine, none of its parishes does– its statute expires, and its bank account freezes.

Statutes refer to Moscow Patriarchate

This issue should be dealt with by the state service, which is responsible for checking the legality of issues related to religious expression and nationalities.

At the same time, Sagan stressed that a decision taken by the Kiev Court of Appeals on the temporary suspension of the law concerns only 266 parishes, so the remaining 12,000 parishes belonging to the Russian Church in Ukraine must apply the law that obliges them to state in their statutes that they belong to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Persecution of Russian church in Ukraine

The situation between the Russian and the Ukrainian churches in the country has been full of tension for some years already. It got new fuel because of the visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch, archbishop Bartholomew from Constantinople, to Ukraine during the 30-years independence festivities in August this year.

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Committee published conclusions about Ukraine with some critical notes about how Russian churches were handled. There were many incidents of “violence, intimidation and acts of vandalism of places of worship” in the Ukrainian churches under the Moscow Patriarchate combined with “inaction of the police”.

The Russian Metropolitan Hilarion welcomed this UN report in several news reports by saying that there is a “systematic persecution” of the Russian church in Ukraine.

However, during the session of the UN’s experts, there were also concerns about the Russian behaviour in the occupied territories in the east of Ukraine.



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