Fifty members of the Ukrainian parliament tried to block a proposed ban on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), according to the civic watchdog known as the Chesno movement.

The UOC-MP and many of its members have been deemed a fifth-column of the Russian government by virtue of its de facto subordination to Moscow. The relevant draft bill is pending the second reading.

Most of the signatories of the motion are from President Zelensky’s Servant of the People party and the opposition Platform for Life and Peace faction. The latter was formed by former members of the banned pro-Russian faction Opposition Platform – for Life.

These 50 lawmakers signed a letter demanding that Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk request the Venice Commission assess the legality of the government-proposed bill #8371, which would ban the UOC-MP.

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The authors of the bill acknowledge that the state has no right to dictate to believers which church they can belong to, but claim that the bill in question would in no way limit or infringe on the freedom of worship. The bill specifically targets members of the UOC-MP who, as Kremlin agents, spread propaganda that harms Ukrainians and their Western partners.

According to reports, criminal charges have been brought against 42 UOC-MP clerics since the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and other competent bodies looked into their pro-Russian statements, activities and conducted searches of premises occupied by its clergy.

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Chesno said that the letter was signed by 20 members of the Servant of the People, 15 of the Platform for Life and Peace, 10 from the Ukraine’s Recovery, one from the For the Future and one from the Batkivshchyna parties, as well as three non-aligned lawmakers.

The Chesno analysts said that most of the signatories occupy key positions within parliamentary committees and their respective political factions.

The report says the move was initiated by Andriy Motovylovets, first deputy head of the Servant of the People party, and signed, among others, by Artem Kultenko, Olha Savchenko and Maksym Tkachenko, all deputy heads within the presidential faction.

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Other signatories include Danylo Hetmantsev, chairman of the Tax Committee, Yevheniy Brahar, acting chairman of the Committee on Freedom of Speech, Maksym Pavliuk, deputy chairman of the Law Enforcement Committee, and Stepan Cherniavsky, deputy head of the Agrarian Committee.

As the Kyiv Post has reported, Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, supported the ban on the UOC-MP on Oct. 19. The relevant bill collected 267 votes.

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