SBU intelligence said the raid was to investigate alleged Russian use of the complex for sabotage and weapons storage.
Ukrainian security services and police have raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv in response to suspicions of “sabotage by Russian special forces.”
The sprawling Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Kyiv Caves Monastery) is a Ukrainian cultural monument, with cathedrals, churches and other buildings listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper, the church is also the headquarters of the Russian-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Ukraine’s counterintelligence and counter-terrorism agency said the search was part of “a coordinated effort to counter the subversive activities of Russian special forces in Ukraine.”
According to a statement by the intelligence service, known as SBU for its Ukrainian acronym, the operation was intended to prevent the monastery from being used as a “center of the Russian world” and “to raise suspicions about its use by Russia.” It was done to investigate.” On the premises … subversive activities and reconnaissance groups, foreigners, [and] armoury”. Another site is being searched in the Rivne region, 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of the capital, he said.
The concept of the “Russian World” is at the heart of President Vladimir Putin’s new foreign policy aimed at protecting Russia’s language, culture and religion. It has been used by conservative ideologies to justify intervention abroad.
SBU did not elaborate on the outcome of the operation.
war deepens divisions
In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Ukrainian authorities of “waging war on the Russian Orthodox Church”.
He described the search as “another link in the chain of these offensive actions against the Russian Orthodox Church.”
Moscow-based ecclesiastical authorities have repeatedly expressed support for the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow Patriarch Kirill, who heads the Russian Orthodox Church, described the war as a “metaphysical struggle” between Moscow and the West. He denounced Tuesday’s raid as an “act of intimidation.”
The raid will further exacerbate already strained relations between Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians.
Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda said: “Like many other cases of persecution of believers in Ukraine since 2014, this act of intimidation against believers has been noticed by those calling themselves international human rights groups. It is almost certain that it will not.”
Operation SBU follows a November 12 service at the Pechersk Lavra where a Ukrainian Orthodox priest was filmed speaking about Russia’s “awakening”.
The SBU said it was “investigating the details of an incident that took place in one of the temples of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, where a song was sung in praise of the ‘Russian World’.”
Last Friday, the SBU said it had indicted a senior clergyman in the West Vinnitsa region for trying to distribute leaflets justifying Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
In May, the Moscow Patriarch’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church ended ties with the Russian Church over its support for what Moscow called a “special military operation.”
Ukraine claims the all-out aggression was a war of aggression without reason.
A 2020 survey by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center found that 34% of Ukrainians are members of the main Ukrainian Orthodox Church and 14% are members of the Moscow Patriarchal Church of Ukraine.
In 2019, Ukraine received permission from Orthodox Christian spiritual leaders around the world to establish a church independent of Moscow, ending centuries of religious ties between the two countries. .