In Ukraine, Ukrainian Orthodox Church
Church Cupolas at Kievo-Pecherska Lavra (Caves Monastery)

Church Cupolas at Kievo-Pecherska Lavra (Caves Monastery) in Kiev, Ukraine. Credit: Adam Jones (Wikimedia Commons).

Exclusive By Slava Myrolub for New Cold War, April 11, 2023.

Since fall 2022, the Zelensky regime has been attempting to use sweeping powers, based on its nationalist ideology, to take over the land and buildings of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). Pressure has been exerted on the monks, priests and parishioners to prevent them from worshipping in the historic Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, a holy site and a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of orthodox believers in Ukraine, Russia and across the region.

The claims being made by Zelensky and his party are that the UOC and its clergy are promoting pro-Russian values and making anti-Ukraine statements. However, as Slava Myrolub clearly shows in their first article “Zelensky and the Monks” published at the end of March, nothing could be further from the truth. The cynical actions employed by the Ukraine government are in total contrast with the determined yet peaceful steps being taken by the Church, its clergy and congregation to protect their centuries-old places of worship and inalienable rights. But as Myrolub’s latest piece shows, Zelensky, his assistants and supporters have now taken matters to new and unprecedented levels of violence.

Further reading: “Kiev’s Kristallnacht”, Declan Hayes

***

On Saturday April 1, Ukraine’s Security Service arrested the Vice-Regent of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, after searching his residency. He was brought to court where a judge announced that he would be put under house arrest for two months. After the Metropolitan complained that he was not feeling well because of high blood pressure due to diabetes, the judge decided to postpone the hearing until Monday. In spite of this, later the same day the court reconsidered its own decision and decided to hold the hearing.

In what is an unprecedented move, it is likely that the judge acquiesced after receiving a call from those higher-up, telling him to proceed with the detention. It was then decided by the court that the Metropolitan Pavlo be placed under 24/7 house arrest, together with an obligation for him to wear an electronic monitoring tag on his ankle (which was put on him immediately, in the courtroom), and a ban on him attending the divine liturgies at the monastery. The prosecutor also asked for a ban on the publishing of video addresses on social media, a request that the judge dismissed.

Metropolitan Pavlo’s lawyer declared that the accusations against the Metropolitan are groundless. He also indicated that the court, by taking the decision to place the Vice-Regent of Lavra under house arrest, neglected the main principles of criminal proceedings, including giving the defense sufficient time to become familiarized with the accusations, respecting the honor and dignity of the person, the right to defense and the presumption of innocence.

As noted by the Ukrainian website Strana, the Ukrainian authorities are exasperated by the unexpected capacity of the UOC to resist the repressive campaign unleashed against them. For the first time since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Zelensky and his regime have been confronted by an effective resistance, and they do not know how to crush it without appearing authoritarian and aggressive. So, they decided to arrest the vice regent of Lavra, Metropolitan Pavlo, on trumped-up accusations of justifying Russian aggression and instigating interconfessional animosity.

The Monks of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are continuing their peaceful protection of the monastery, through their round the clock presence on the ground, prayers and psalm singing. They do their best to remain calm while in front of them their fellow citizens shout nationalist slogans and obscenities, dance, and curse; trying to provoke the believers into committing aggressive acts.

Meanwhile, Zelensky and his regime are determined to carry on with their plans to confiscate the churches and monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. They do not dare to do it by force because doing so would discredit their image as a democratic state, although only naïve people can perceive them as such after they banned all democratically elected opposition parties and closed all media that dared to voice opinions even mildly divergent from those voiced by the president and his subordinates.

Zelensky and his regime have other covert tools and know other malicious ways to shut down the UOC. How? By provoking its priests and parishioners into acting aggressively, to film it and then share the videos on social media as proof of the UOC’s terrorist, anti-Ukrainian nature. And ultra-nationalist groups, such as the infamous C-14, are quite handy at this kind of task.

The Telegram channel of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra has published audio-recordings of a voice that sounds exactly like that of Evhen Karas, the leader of C-14, giving instructions to “boys and girls” on how to stage and instigate aggressive behaviour by the Lavra parishioners and monks, who he calls ‘monkeys,’ ‘cattle,’ or fagots. He explains that these ‘activists’ should gather in groups of two or three, ideally three, and enter the church without making it known that they are from the same group. One member of the troika, the most ‘talkative’, is to ask provocative questions, the second is to record the conversation on their mobile phone as close as possible, on video or audio, without being noticed by the ‘monkey’. The third member of the group is to film the aggressive behaviour of a UOC parishioner from a distance, so that the whole episode is recorded on phones and then shared on social media. And in this way, even Europeans will see what brutes these ‘monkeys’ are.
And the provocateurs came. There are many videos on the Lavra Live Telegram channel, including these:

hard work to sculpt a hero…

Machine translated text from telegram post: https://t.me/lavralive/1204

The anti-church media actively wash the identity of Gorban Yaroslav, who committed violence, and mold the offender into a HERO-FIGHTER against the clergy.

But not everything is so simple.
Our hero, a person who systematically commits offenses, according to the Open Register of Court Decisions (https://court.gov.ua/fair/) (more than 20 different court cases).

IMPORTANTLY
Yesterday, April 10, according to the DECISION OF THE COURT, Gorban, J.S. did not have the right to drive a vehicle. After all, he was deprived of his rights, due to the fact that he drove a car while intoxicated for the second time during the year.
Yesterday, April 10, the city of Gorban, J.S. also refused to pass an examination on the state of alcohol and drug intoxication.

Excerpt from court decisions:

Article 130 part 3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses – the city of Horban, J.S. On March 16, 2023, the M-19 route with clear signs of alcohol intoxication (the smell of alcohol from the mouth, pronounced tremors of the fingers, a sharp change in the color of the skin of the face). He refused to undergo an examination for the state of alcohol intoxication in accordance with the procedure established by law.

Article 126 part 5 of the Code of Administrative Offenses – the city of Horban, J.S. On March 16, 2023, he drove a vehicle on the M-19 highway at the “Zvenyachyn” JV while being deprived of the right to drive a vehicle, the offense was committed repeatedly within a year.

https://t.me/lavralive/206

They came to Lavra and to many other churches of the UOC. The UOC has even created a guide on how to deal with these provocateurs.

But the problem is on a much larger scale, because those who want to eradicate the UOC from Ukrainian soil hold high office in Kyiv and in the local power structure. In Western Ukraine in particular, the heads of the regional and city administrations are leading the war against the UOC. For instance, in Ivano-Frankivsk, the mayor of the city, Ruslan Maryanski was present when an aggressive crowd broke down the gate into the courtyard of the last place of worship of the UOC in the Ivano-Frankivsk region and stormed the church. While some of the parishioners locked themselves inside the church, others remained on the stairs outside and continued praying. The attackers started to shout ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!” and the parishioners replied: ‘Glory to God’.

Priests from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and the crowd attempted to climb the stairs and enter the church but the parishioners pushed them back. Then a group of young men in balaclavas and masks broke through the side doors, entered the church and let off tear gas, forcing the parishioners and the priest inside to leave. Throughout this, the police stood by and did nothing. And then the mayor of the city, Ruslan Martsynkiv, declared on camera that this was a very important event for him because the Ivano-Frankivska oblast became the first oblast in Ukraine without the Moscow Patriarchate. This church was indeed the last of its kind in the oblast; a church where parishioners of the UOC could gather and pray. In January 2022, on the orders of the same mayor, a bulldozer destroyed another church, the last but one.

In several cities, including in Lviv, regional authorities are voting to terminate without any legal justification the lease agreements between the Ukrainian state and the parishes of the UOC. Since the creation of the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine at the beginning of 2019, the churches of the UOC have been ransacked, destroyed or confiscated by the OCU. The SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) has conducted searches in many monasteries, churches, offices of the UOC and concocted charges based solely on suspicion against several clergymen. This process has taken on such large proportions that even the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights made mention of it in its March 2023 report; cautiously noting that the Ukrainian State’s activities targeting the UOC could be seen as discriminatory (see p. 32, paragraph 113).

Reacting to the report, Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on his Facebook page that Ukraine is a democratic state that guarantees religious freedom when it does not undermine national security. He also called upon the High Commissioner on Human Rights to refrain from ‘unbalanced’ political assessments and base their reports on ‘facts’. One can only imagine what ‘balanced’ reports the UN Human Rights Office would produce if they followed the advice of people like Nikolenko. A big problem for him and other representatives of the Ukrainian state lies in the fact that the above-mentioned report is precisely ‘based on facts.’ This explains their agitation.

Another Ukrainian official, presidential advisor Mikhailo Podolyak, called the UN report a fiction. All the democratic world, to which Ukraine, of course, belongs—elaborated Mr. Podolyak—clearly understands the fabricated nature of such reports. Why? Because the UN is not a platform for settling international conflicts, but one that UN bureaucracy uses to make good money out of conflicts and knowingly uses to obtain huge grants from authoritarian countries like Russia. So, Mr. Podolyak is accusing the UN of no less than corruption. How very courageous of him!

This is the same presidential advisor who publicly regretted that their regime wasted time at the beginning of the war and did not physically remove the clergy and parishioners of the UOC. As Podolyak explained: “We could have ‘cured’ everything rapidly and painlessly in the first 3-6 months into the war. It was possible then to just physically cleanse many of them. Today it is a little bit more complicated. But it does not mean that we can’t do it. And today we are judicially motivated, it’s quite a hard path to walk.”

Zelensky and his assistants are walking the hard path of repression against the UOC, all in the name of achieving, as Zelensky recently said, ‘a full spiritual independence.’ He is inventing new ecclesiastical concepts. Spiritual independence from what, from whom? From the God himself? Or from the duty to respect and guarantee the right to religious freedom of all Ukrainians?

Zelensky and his regime, including the Security Service of Ukraine, have launched an all-encompassing planned attack on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while Zelensky himself proclaims that Ukraine is the country with the greatest religious freedom in “our part of Europe.”

Yes, right, Mister President. In your Orwellian Ukraine, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength. It is by taking the churches away from the UOC and giving them to the non-canonical politically created OCU, by sending SBU to search monasteries and offices of the UOC, by unleashing an intimidation campaign against UOC believers and by arresting the UOC clergy, that you ensure their religious freedom. And the civilized, democratic West that you so deeply venerate and admire says nothing and turns a blind eye to your undemocratic methods of suppressing ‘incorrect’ Ukrainians. Incorrect because they go to a politically incorrect church; incorrect because, by their humble prayers and peaceful resistance, they interfere with your intentions of creating a church of the Ukrainian nation which excludes those who are not loyal to Ukrainian nationalism.

But the believers and the clergy of the UOC are also part and parcel of the Ukrainian people, of your people, Mr. President. And if you are the president of a democratic country, as you claim, you should embrace them, embrace the religious diversity of Ukraine, and stop the persecution of the UOC; stop vilifying and discrediting its clergy and parishioners in official speeches and in the mainstream media.

Ukraine’s power holders already made the terrible mistake of alienating a big part of the Ukrainian people, Russian speaking Ukrainians, in 2014. It was this that brought war to Ukraine. And now you are following in the steps of your predecessors. You promised to bring peace to Ukraine when you were campaigning to become president. You even came to the UOC to ask for their support. And they granted it to you. And yet, now, as a way of showing your gratitude, you are confiscating their churches and chasing them from their monasteries?
The war in which Ukrainians and Russians are killing each other, is also of your making, Mr. President. You did not listen to your own people but followed the instructions of your masters from Washington who could not care less about the prosperity and freedom of Ukraine. You are but a tool in their scheming hands, a tool with which they hope to destroy Russia. But you are a willing tool. History will judge you for this. One day you will have to answer before God, the people, and your own conscience; for your hypocrisy and cynicism, for your delusion of grandeur, for the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians sacrificed to the altar of your ambitions.

And the Orthodox Church of Ukraine will come out of this ordeal triumphant, as it has done many times before, because it is a Church for all Ukrainians, no matter their language or their ideological beliefs.

*****

EDITOR’S NOTE: We remind our readers that publication of articles on our site does not mean that we agree with what is written. Our policy is to publish anything which we consider of interest, so as to assist our readers in forming their opinions. Sometimes we even publish articles with which we totally disagree, since we believe it is important for our readers to be informed on as wide a spectrum of views as possible.

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