Ukraine's SBU

Ukraine’s SBU Conducts More Raids At Churches Formerly Under Moscow’s Jurisdiction

December 11, 2022
1 min read

Ukrainian security agents conducted counterintelligence operations at more than a dozen cathedrals and monasteries in the Kharkiv region belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) as part of a weeks-long, wide-ranging probe into suspected pro-Russia activity by members of its leadership.

Agents raided the Svyato-Pokrovskiy Monastery in the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on December 10 as well as 14 other monasteries and cathedrals in the region, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) confirmed in a statement.

The SBU alleges the religious institutions were being used as instruments of Russian influence inside Ukraine. The UOC had been under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch in Moscow until May 2022, when it cut ties over the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian Orthodox Church is closely aligned with the Kremlin and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, has backed the war.

The December 10 raids were conducted “to exclude the use of religious communities as cells of the ‘Russian world’ and to protect the population from provocations and terrorist acts,” the SBU said in its statement, claiming it had found a library with pro-Kremlin agitation as well as cash in various currencies, including Russian rubles.

The probes in Kharkiv come less than three weeks after agents raided Kyiv’s historic Pechersk Lavra along with other UOC facilities around the country. The 11th-century monastery and UNESCO World Heritage site — which is also known as the Monastery of the Caves — is the seat of the UOC.

More raids of UOC facilities were conducted earlier this month in the Zakarpattya, Zhytomyr, and Rivne regions. The SBU said at the time that it had found a large amount of “anti-Ukrainian material” as well as documents confirming the UOC members possessed Russian passports.

Following the December 10 raid in Kharkiv, the SBU said it had found another monk who possessed a Russian passport and is now investigating whether he was involved in intelligence gathering for Moscow or involved in other subversive activities.

The UOC has protested the raids, calling accusations of alleged collaboration by monks and priests “unproven and unfounded.” It warned the SBU against “inciting an internal war.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on December 3 that his government will continue measures to ensure the “spiritual independence” of Ukraine from Russia.

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