The SBU intelligence service says the raid was to investigate suspicions that Russia was using the complex to sabotage and store weapons.
Ukraine’s security service and police raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv to counter alleged “subversive activities of Russian special services.”
The sprawling Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex, or Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, is a Ukrainian cultural treasure and its cathedral, churches, and other buildings are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River, it is also the seat of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate.
Ukraine’s counterintelligence and antiterrorism service said the search was part of its “systematic work to counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in Ukraine.”
The statement from the intelligence service, known as SBU by its Ukrainian acronym, said the operation was aimed at preventing the use of the monastery as “the center of the Russian world” and was carried out to investigate suspicions “about the use of the premises… to give shelter to sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, [and] weapons storage. He said he was also looking for himself at another site in the Rivne region, 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of the capital.
The concept of the “Russian world” is at the center of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new foreign policy doctrine, which aims to protect Russia’s language, culture and religion. It has been used by conservative ideologues to justify intervention abroad.
The SBU did not provide further details on the result of the operation.
The war deepens the divide
In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the Ukrainian authorities of “waging war against the Russian Orthodox Church.”
He described the search “as another link in the chain of these aggressive actions against Russian Orthodoxy.”
Moscow-based church authorities have repeatedly expressed their support for the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, has described the war as a “metaphysical struggle” between Moscow and the West. He condemned Tuesday’s search as “an act of intimidation.”
The raid will further strain already tense relations between Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians.
“Like many other cases of persecution of believers in Ukraine since 2014, this act of intimidation of believers will almost certainly go unnoticed by those calling themselves the international human rights community,” said Vladimir Legoyda, a spokesman for the Orthodox Church. Russian.
The SBU operation follows a Nov. 12 service at the Pechersk Lavra compound where a Ukrainian Orthodox priest was filmed speaking about the “awakening” of Russia.
The SBU said it was “investigating the details of the incident that occurred in one of the temples of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, where songs praising the ‘Russian world’ were sung.”
Last Friday, the SBU said it had accused a senior cleric from the western Vinnytsia region of trying to distribute leaflets justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
In May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate ended its ties with the Russian Church over the latter’s support of what Moscow calls a “special military operation.”
Ukraine says the full-scale invasion was an unprovoked war of aggression.
A 2020 survey by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center found that 34 percent of Ukrainians identified themselves as members of the main Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while 14 percent were members of the Moscow Patriarchate Church of Ukraine.
In 2019, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians around the world gave Ukraine permission to form an independent church from Moscow, largely ending centuries of religious ties between the two countries.