Ukraine’s Probe of Historic Kyiv Orthodox Christian Monastery Draws Russian Ire

The recent move of Ukraine’s local and national enforcement and counter-intelligence service to probe the historic Kyiv Monastery of Caves has drawn the ire of Russian officials in Moscow.

According to a report by News4Jax, authorities searched the Kyiv monastery complex following its priest’s public show of support for Russia. The UNESCO-listed World Heritage site is already 1,000 years old and has been a site that pilgrims go to for several centuries.

Why the Search Happened

On Nov. 12, a Ukrainian Orthodox priest at the Monastery of Caves (also called “Pechersk Lavra”) reportedly remarked on film about Russia’s “awakening.” 

SBU, Ukraine’s counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence service, explained that their search of the complex was due to their “systematic work to counter the subversive activities of the Russian special services in Ukraine.”

SBU officials said the agency is trying to verify the report that congregants holding service in one of Pechersk Lavra’s temples sang songs “praising the ‘Russian world.'”

“Those who, in the conditions of a full-scale war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, are waiting for the ‘awakening of Mother Rus’ should understand that this harms the security and interests of Ukraine and our citizens. And we will not allow such manifestations,” News4Jax quoted SBU head Vasyl Maliuk saying.

The report disclosed that SBU had started criminal proceedings on the grounds of the Russian propaganda that the monastery’s congregants allegedly committed.

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Other Details of the Search

The same report mentioned that government security and counter-terrorism forces conducted the probe on suspicion of Russian covert operations within its walls.

The probe likewise amplified the ongoing division within Ukraine’s Orthodox community due to the continuing Russian invasion that is now in its ninth month.

The Ukrainian authorities searched the monastery’s buildings for clandestine weapons, intelligence materials, and foreign nationals.

The news outlet disclosed that Ukrainian security, counter-terrorism, and counter-intelligence officials are conducting a search at another location in the Rivne region, which is some 240 kilometers west of the capital Kyiv.

Ongoing Religious, Socio-political Turmoil

The report noted that there had been Ukrainian Orthodox communities numbering in the hundreds that have decided to sever ties with their Russian-led Ukrainian Orthodox Church counterparts. The churches that broke away from the Moscow-led faction are now with the Orthodox Church identified with Ukraine.

Pechersk Lavra, the article bared, is among the Orthodox churches in Ukraine that chose to remain with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, blasted the Ukrainian operation on the monastery complex.

Peskov accused Ukraine of “waging a war on the Russian Orthodox Church.” He added that the Ukrainian search was “another link in the chain of these aggressive actions against Russian Orthodoxy.”

The news outlet noted how Orthodox Church leaders in Moscow have been consistent in supporting Kremlin’s Ukraine invasion.

The Russian Orthodox Church head, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, called the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war a “metaphysical struggle” between Moscow and the West. Kirill also blasted Ukraine’s search of the monastery complex as “an act of intimidation.” 

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