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Ukrainian parliament passes first reading of bill outlawing Ukrainian Orthodox Church

A total of 267 MPs supported the bill

MOSCOW, October 19. /TASS/. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) has passed the first reading of a bill banning the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), MP Yaroslav Zheleznyak said on his Telegram channel.

A total of 267 MPs supported the bill. The motion needed 226 votes to pass.

The Ukrainian government prepared and submitted the bill to parliament in January on the instructions from President Vladimir Zelensky. It would allow the authorities to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church if they decide that it is institutionally linked to the Russian Orthodox Church. It took a while to put the document to a vote because, as Rada speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk said, the bill was unlikely to receive enough votes to pass. On October 5, Ukrainian MP Yuliya Klymenko said that the Rada had garnered the necessary support to ban the canonical church. However, the head of the parliamentary faction of the pro-presidential Servant of the People party, David Arakhamia, unexpectedly said that passing the bill wasn’t a priority.

In recent years, the Ukrainian authorities have been actively pursuing outlawing the UOC. In particular, they encourage the transfer of its religious communities to the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCU), created in 2018 from two schismatic religious structures. Local authorities seek to deprive the UOC of the right to lease land under churches and encourage PCU supporters to forcibly seize canonical churches and attack priests. According to the latest data, the Security Service of Ukraine has filed criminal charges against 65 UOC priests, sanctions were imposed on 17 clerics, while 19 hierarchs were stripped of their citizenship. Despite this, according to the State Service of Ukraine for Ethno-Politics and Freedom of Conscience, at least 5-6 mln Ukrainians remain parishioners of the UOC.