Government Ukraine blocks ban of Moscow-oriented church


Eastern Europe


Ukrainian believers during a service in the Orthodox church in Odesa. Photo EPA, Stepan Franko

Local governments in Ukraine cannot outlaw the (Moscow-connected) Ukrainian Orthodox Church. That is the signal from the Ministry of Culture and Information from the federal government in Kyiv.

Since the Russian invasion in February, several city councils have tried to ban the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) or pressed the local parish to transfer to the newly formed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).

The first one is (still officially) connected to the Moscow Patriarchate of Patriarch Kirill. For that reason, many Ukrainians see this church as a threat to the nation. However, the UOC has made it crystal clear from the first day that it is against the invasion. The second church is connected to the Patriarchate of Constantinople of Patriarch Bartholomew.

Court decision

According to Interfax, religion can only be voluntarily organised by the members. The only option is “a court decision if it violates the requirements of the law”, says the Ministry of Culture. The ministry writes that local governments have no right “to terminate the activities of the UOC forcibly”.

Ukrainian soldiers in church. Photo EPA, Sergey Kozlov

The answer from Kyiv comes from an appeal from one of the leaders in the Volyn diocese, Archpriest Valery Pilipchuk. Earlier, a village in the Volyn region banned the activities of the UOC. Similar decisions were also made in Kyiv, Lviv, Cherkasy and some other areas of Ukraine. But this ban was illegal.

According to the official website of the UOC, some parties have sent letters to President Zelensky about this as well.

Because of the attempts to de-legitimise the church, the UOC decided to cut all its ties with Moscow in May. The problem is that this will not become official if the Patriarchate in Moscow does not recognise that decision.



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