The National Internal Security Agency raided more than a dozen religious sites in the Kharkov region
The Ukrainian internal security agency, the SBU, carried out a new series of raids on Saturday against Orthodox Christian churches in the northeast of the Kharkov region. The operation, which targeted 14 religious institutions, comes amid kyiv’s crackdown on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) over its alleged ties to Russia.
The SBU leadership in the Kharkov region claimed that it conducted “counterintelligence activities” as part of the agency’s efforts to “counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in our state.”
Raids are also intended “to prevent the use of religious communities as a cell of the ‘Russian world'” the SBU noted in a Facebook post, adding that it is looking for individuals who may undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as various prohibited actions.
These raids coincided with similar efforts in the kyiv region. On Friday, SBU agents inspected a small monastery in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, identifying 16 “suspicious figures”. The agency claimed that their presence there was illegal.
A similar operation took place in the part of Russia’s Kherson region currently under Ukrainian control. During the raid on a premises in the diocese of Kherson, the SBU claimed to have found an unregistered firearm, a Russian golden coat of arms, as well as “materials glorifying Russia.”
Ukrainian authorities have been campaigning for months against religious institutions allegedly linked to Moscow, raiding kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra, the country’s main Orthodox Christian monastery, in late November.
The crackdown has been backed by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who last week announced new measures to ban religious institutions deemed to have ties to Russia in a bid to protect the nation. “spiritual independence”.
Its main target is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, historically linked to Russia, but which declared its independence from Moscow after launching its military operation against the neighboring state in late February.
Ukraine has long experienced religious tensions, with a number of entities claiming to be the true Ukrainian Orthodox Church, challenging the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate. The two main rival factions are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), considered by the Russian Orthodox Church to be schismatic.
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