The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) is conducting an investigation at the Pochaiv Dormition Lavra, affiliated with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), according to a statement on the SBU’s Telegram channel.
Prior to the official announcement from the SBU, a source within law enforcement agencies informed Kyiv Post that the initial reason for the law enforcement visit was “the spread of Russian ideology by representatives of the Lavra.”
The SBU’s press service has reported that the searches are part of criminal proceedings related to the Lavra’s leadership being involved in inciting national enmity and hatred.
The investigation has revealed that representatives of the Pochaiv Lavra published content on the monastery’s website insulting the national honor and dignity of Jews, along with inciting religious enmity against representatives of all churches except the UOC-MP.
Furthermore, in the same post, clerics of the UOC-MP questioned the existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state separate from Russia.
An examination conducted by the SBU confirmed the presence of statements in the online publication that incite international enmity and hatred.
Ukraine’s criminal code forbids the “violation of the equality of citizens based on racial, national, religious affiliation, religious beliefs, disability, and other grounds.” Further investigations are underway to establish all circumstances of the crime.
SBU employees, in collaboration with the National Police, carried out comprehensive measures in the Ternopil region.
The Pochaiv Lavra is an Orthodox men’s monastery located in Pochaiv, near Ternopil. It holds significance as the largest Orthodox shrine in western Ukraine, second only to the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The Pochaiv Theological Seminary is also situated on its grounds.
In early April, over 30 Ukrainian lawmakers registered a resolution in parliament urging the government to terminate the lease contract for the buildings of the Pochaiv Dormition Lavra with the UOC-MP, as the Ukrainian government owns the land and buildings.
In the explanatory note, legislators emphasize that the Pochaiv Lavra has become a “hotbed of the Russian world” – a quasi-ideology justifying Russia’s invasion – serving as an outpost for anti-Ukrainian forces and a center of inter-confessional confrontation.
Yevhenia Kravchuk, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy in Ukraine, told Kyiv Post that the resolution could be voted on in May, but this never materialized.
However, in October, the parliament adopted a draft law in the first reading proposing the banning of the UOC-MP in Ukraine, supported by 267 deputies.
In other news regarding the continued crackdown on the UOC-MP, on Nov. 29, the Pechersky District Court of Kyiv extended the 24-hour house arrest measure for UOC-MP Metropolitan Pavel Lebed (known as Pasha Mercedes) until Jan. 29, Suspilne reported. The former vicar of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra faces charges of deliberately inciting enmity, justifying Russian aggression against Ukraine since 2014, and insulting citizens’ religious beliefs.
During the court session, Lebed’s lawyers requested the judge’s dismissal, citing alleged disregard for defense requests and hearings during air raid alerts. Metropolitan Pavel Lebed also disclosed having had a heart attack and being insulin-dependent. Ultimately, the court did not grant the request to remove the judge.
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