A court in Ukraine’s Vinnytsia region sentenced Metropolitan Ionafan (Anatoliy Yeletskykh) of the Tulchyn Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) to five years in prison, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported on its website on Monday, Aug. 7.

The inquiry learned that the priest had been circulating propaganda leaflets among the faithful, calling for an overthrow of the government and altering the country’s borders.

The SBU also alleged that the priest had been posting messages in support of Russian invaders and their actions on one of the websites of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Forensic examination of the evidence seized during the searches, such as pro-Kremlin propaganda and literature, confirmed the facts of the priest’s illegal activity, the SBU said.

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The court found the cleric guilty on four counts: 1) actions aimed at the violent change or overthrow of the constitutional order or at the seizure of state power; 2) encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine; 3) violation of the equality of citizens depending on their racial, national, regional belonging, religious beliefs, disability and other grounds; and 4) justification, recognition as legitimate, or denial of armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, and/or the glorification of its participants.

The arrest is the most recent in a concerted effort by the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky to rein in the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which acts through the UOC-MP, its effective subsidiary long considered a fifth column supporting Moscow’s effort to control Kyiv.

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Ukraine’s leading church, the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), has been gradually trying to fill the vacuum created by a backlash against the UOC-MP for its ambivalence with regard to the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine.

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