KIEV, December 2. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has said that the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) decided to launch a crackdown against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). Among other things the executive body issued instructions to submit a bill to parliament banning "religious organizations affiliated with Russia’s centers of influence" and to intensify measures to combat Russian "intelligence agents" in the Ukrainian church.
In a video message uploaded to a Telegram channel early on Friday, Zelensky announced five measures.
The National Security and Defense Council instructed the government to submit to the Verkhovna Rada "a bill on the impossibility of activities in Ukraine of any religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation."
The State Service for Ethnicpolitics and Freedom of Conscience was instructed to conduct a theological examination of the Charter governing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for signs of ecclesiastical and canonical links with the Moscow Patriarchate.
Furthermore, the Security Council ordered a probe into the existence of legal grounds and compliance with the conditions for using the properties located on the territory of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery. Under the NSDC’s decision, law enforcement agencies should also "step up measures to identify and counter subversive activities by Russian special services in Ukraine’s religious sphere."
In addition, sanctions will be imposed on individuals, whose names, according to Zelensky, will soon be made public.
Lastly, the Ukrainian president announced plans for reforming the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience to expand its powers. Zelensky believes that these decisions will guarantee what he described as the "spiritual independence of Ukraine."
Recently, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies conducted a series of searches at UOC churches. The Security Service of Ukraine said that "pro-Russian literature and millions in cash," as well as "materials denying the existence of Ukraine" were found.
Church in Ukraine
The UOC is a self-governing church within the Moscow Patriarchate. Its special status is enshrined in the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as in the Charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church itself. The UOC Council, which took place in Kiev on May 27, stated that it had introduced "additions and amendments to the Charter on governing the UOC, which indicate the UOC’s complete independence."
In 2018, after a Unification Council in Kiev, the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was created from two schismatic organizations, which later obtained autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The Russian Orthodox Church and the UOC do not recognize the canonical status of this religious organization. After the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, its supporters began to seize the UOC’s church buildings by force.
As it cranks up pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the Kiev regime feels emboldened and no longer has to hide behind the veil of democracy, for it has no doubts about support from its Western bosses, Archpriest Nikolay Balashov, an adviser to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, member of the Russian Orthodox Church’s interdepartmental working group of on coordinating assistance to the dioceses of Donbass and adjacent territories, told TASS on Friday.
"The pressure being exerted by the authorities on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is mounting with every passing day. The Zelensky regime is no longer afraid to discard any semblance of a democratic social system, because it has no doubt that its Western handlers will never rebuke it for violating the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens," said Balashov, when asked for a comment on the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council’s decisions regarding the UOC.