Ukraine Puts Priest Under House Arrest

Security agency accuses Orthodox leader of justifying Russian aggression
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 1, 2023 3:00 PM CDT
Ukraine Puts Priest Under House Arrest
Priests of Ukrainian Orthodox Church pray Saturday with supporters after resisting a government order to leave the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery complex in Kyiv.   (AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna)

A Kyiv court ordered a leading priest to be put under house arrest Saturday after Ukraine's top security agency said he was suspected of justifying Russian aggression, a criminal offense. It was the latest move in a bitter dispute over a famed Orthodox monastery. Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, Ukraine's most revered Orthodox site, has denied the charges and resisted the authorities' order to vacate the complex, the AP reports. After the court's ruling, a monitoring bracelet was placed around his ankle, despite his objections that he has diabetes and should not wear it.

"I am accepting this," he said before the bracelet was attached. "Christ was crucified on the cross, so why shouldn't I accept this?" In a court hearing earlier in the day, the metropolitan said the claim by the Security Service of Ukraine that he condoned Russia's invasion was politically driven. "I have never been on the side of aggression," Pavel told reporters in the courthouse. "This is my land." He cursed President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier in the week, threatening him with damnation. SBU agents raided the metropolitcan's residence, and prosecutors asked the court to put him under house arrest pending the investigation. The hearing Saturday was adjourned until Monday after the metropolitan said he was feeling unwell.

The monks in the monastery belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has been accused of having links to Russia. The dispute surrounding the property, also known as the Monastery of the Caves, is part of a wider religious conflict that has unfolded in parallel with the war. The Ukrainian government has cracked down on the church over its historic ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader, Patriarch Kirill, has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin in the invasion of Ukraine. The UOC has insisted that it's loyal to Ukraine and has denounced the Russian invasion from the start. But Ukrainian security agencies have raided holy sites of the church and then posted photos of rubles, Russian passports, and leaflets with messages from the Moscow patriarch as proof that some church officials have been loyal to Russia.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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