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Ukrainian security services raid an Orthodox monastery – RT Russia and the former Soviet Union

Russian saboteurs and weapons may be hidden in long-contested church property, service says

Ukraine’s internal security agency, the SBU, launched a raid targeting the country’s main Orthodox Christian monastery, the kyiv Pechersk Lavra.

Earlier this month, he launched a criminal probe into alleged pro-Russian activity on church property, which has been the subject of a long-running custody dispute.

A statement released by the SBU on Tuesday morning said an interagency raid was underway to prevent “Subversive activities of Russian special services”. The goal was to “to prevent the use of the Lavra as a cell of the ‘Russian world'”and to verify claims that the monastery was used to hide “teams of saboteurs, foreign citizens, weapons, etc.”

Ukrainian media published images of police cars and armed officers standing at the entrance to the capital’s historic district.

Kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra has its origins in the 11th century and is considered the most important Christian site in Ukraine, as well as a valuable piece of national heritage. The share held by the religious authorities is disputed by the rival churches.

It is currently controlled by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The residence of the head of the church, Metropolitan Onufriy, is located within the monastery complex. The Church has historical ties to Moscow, but it has been de facto independent since the 1990s. After the start of the armed conflict in Ukraine, it symbolically distanced itself from its Russian cousin by ceasing all mention of the head of the Church Russian Orthodox in prayers.

The rival Orthodox Church of Ukraine claims that the monastery should be at least partially administered by it. The church was recognized as valid by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2018 in a controversial move, which caused a major split in the Orthodox world. The Russian Orthodox Church considers its priests to be schismatics.

Tuesday’s raid follows a scandal over a video posted earlier this month by a priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It showed Lavra parishioners performing a hymn to Our Lady, which mentions the unity of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in their faith in Christ and adoration of his mother.

Metropolitan Pavel, the bishop in charge of the Lavra, has denied claims that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church “prayed for Russia” and pledged allegiance to Ukraine and its leaders. He called the anthem a “profane song” and said the priest involved in the incident had been disciplined.

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The SBU said it was investigating “the interpretation of songs praising the ‘Russian word'” to the monastery for criminality, claiming that the act “damaged the security and interests of Ukraine”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted to the news, calling the SBU raid the latest example of Kyiv’s persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

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