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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Searches at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra after a video with songs praising Russia

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The Ukrainian police raided the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and other church sites in the country (Holy Trinity Monastery in Korets, Rivne Oblast, and in the Sarnen Diocese) following information about pro-Russian activity and hiding of suspicious persons.

As part of the operation, 350 church buildings and 850 people were checked. Fifty people were questioned, including with a lie detector. People with fake or leaked documents were found, a Ukrainian citizen was arrested, wanted by the law enforcement agencies and hiding in the cave monastery of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. Two million hryvnias, one hundred thousand dollars and rubles were seized from the Lavra, as well as educational literature in Russian, which propagated the “Russian World”.

The Ukrainian security services stated that they will not allow the Lavra to be used as the center of the “Russian World”, to hide subversive groups, store weapons, etc. activities threatening the security of the Ukrainian capital.

The raid on the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra gained a lot of publicity because of the monastery’s symbolic importance for Kyiv and persistent suspicions of pro-Russian activities of its leadership. Last week, a video of a worship service at the Lavra was released, where the song “A bell is carried, carried over Russia, Mother Rus is awakened” (in the original version of the song “Mother Rus is sanctified”). This sparked a backlash in the capital, where there are daily air raids and the power grid has been disrupted by Russian missile strikes.

The abbot of the Vyshgorod Lavra, Bishop Pavel, issued a statement saying that it was a secular song performed by a “group of female activists” after the service ended, and the priest responsible had been punished.

The police said the search was not related to this case, but was planned: “The searches are not related to the song. Law enforcement officials came to check for suspicious individuals who may be involved in sabotage and involvement in intelligence groups. The fact is that in such places (such as monasteries) people can hide with false documents. The premises are also checked for possible explosives. This is done to ensure the security of the faithful.”

The Ukrainian Church, under the leadership of Metropolitan Onuphrius of Kiev, declared independence from the Moscow Patriarchate in a council to respond to the sentiments of the majority of its clergy and faithful and to defend itself against accusations that it was pursuing a treasonous policy. The Russian Church expressed dissatisfaction with this decision, but did not proceed with more drastic canonical measures, giving the impression that it was a temporary decision that could be changed.

The enmity between the two Orthodox churches in Ukraine – led by Metropolitan Onufriy and Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv – cannot be overcome and remains a major dividing line between Christians in the country. Clerics from both structures continue to accuse each other of “treason” and “temple theft.” Despite the mistrust of the Ukraainian Orthodox Church, called the “Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine“, the authorities are refraining for now from radical decisions at the legislative level, so as not to increase the division in society, which has been severely tested by Russian aggression.

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