Since February 2022, Ukraine’s civil activists have thrown themselves into supporting the war effort and people affected by Russian aggression. Somehow they have also found time to focus on issues that were contentious even before the all-out invasion. 

An old war has been rekindled between activists defending Kyiv’s historical sites and adherents of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

While the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was in power, the Moscow Patriarchate illegally built a church on the territory of the historical site of  “Desiatynna Church” next to the State Historical Museum. This church was constructed in the shape of a garage and it seems to have been built for that purpose. It can be viewed on Google Maps – shaped more like a space for keeping a couple of cars than a place for prayer.


A long time ago, a court decision was made to demolish the illegal structure, but the “church” continues to function.  Activists asked the management of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine, on whose territory the building stands, why the church was still there. The director of the museum replied that State Executive Services should deal with the demolition of the building but, because of the war, no state money has been allocated for these purposes.

Activists found out how much the demolition work would cost and in just one day they collected more than was needed. A construction company then volunteered to dismantle the building for free so that all the money collected would go to support the Armed Forces of Ukaine.

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The museum management greeted this news coolly. Perhaps they fear a scandal. Now there is a tense pause as all parties await word from the State Executive Services, without whose written permission nothing can be done.

It was probably in an attempt to defuse this situation, that the Ukrainian authorities announced that they were preparing to check the legality of 73 Kyiv churches affiliated to the Moscow Patriarchate and the plots of land on which they stand. This is the same as saying that no action will be taken regarding a particular building for a very long time to come.  However, it is unlikely that this delay tactic will distract the activists from their plans to deal with the  “church garage.”


One of the reasons for the Ukrainian authorities’ caution regarding the illegal actions of the Moscow Patriarchate is that the leadership of that church has hired a well-known US lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, to defend it.

Amsterdam has already launched a campaign in the US and regularly accuses the Ukrainian leadership of persecuting believers and restricting freedom of religion in Ukraine.

This topic is often picked up by some US Republicans and the Ukrainian leadership does not want to create any reasons for anti-Ukrainian statements and narratives.

Recently, in the city of Noginsk, 34 kilometers east of Moscow, Russian authorities bulldozed the only remaining Ukrainian Orthodox church in the Russian Federation.

That church was built legally and had all the necessary documents to allow it to function. It seems that the US lawyer, Amsterdam, has not noticed this event, and neither has it garnered any attention in Ukraine.


The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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