Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, much that is connected with Russia has become anathema to the average Ukrainian – but a sphere in which the Kremlin is still exerting influence – based on a report Friday, May 3 by the open-source statistics site Opendatabot – would appear to be religion.

According to it, there are 8,097 churches still associated with Moscow.

Ukraine and Russia each have their own leadership – or patriarchates. The Ukrainian Patriarchate, which had been under Moscow, received its independence, its autocephaly, in 2018.

Despite the Moscow Patriarchate’s close ties with the Kremlin – with its head, Patriarch Kirill, regularly promoting the Russian invasion and hailing Russian leader Vladimir Putin as the savior of modern Russia – only 685 churches of the 8,782 churches affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate pre-February 2022 transferred to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Opendatabot reported.

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Most churches that transferred to the OCU were in the Kyiv – 164, Khmelnytskyi – 155, and Vinnytsia – 75, regions.

The peak of transitions was in 2023 – when 386 churches transferred to the OCU.

But, from December last year to April this year, the number of OCU churches only grew by 96.

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Church transfers to the OCU by region.

That said, the data from Opendatabot includes regions that are under Russian occupation or are close to the front line.

To be sure, being under Russian occupation and being a part of a house of worship that’s not under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church is dangerous.

As Time magazine reported last month – while Evangelicals and Protestants are targeted disproportionately under Russian occupation – being officially a part of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine also invites persecution.

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“There are over thirty cases of religious clergy killed and kidnapped. 109 known cases of interrogations, forced expulsions, imprisonments, arrests. 600 houses of worship destroyed. And these are just the confirmed numbers, with the real ones in information blackout of the occupied territories will much likely be higher,” Time reported.

But whether the reason for a church staying part affiliated with the Russian church – fear of persecution, belief in the rightness of the Moscow patriarchate, or something else entirely – a relatively small portion of Ukrainian churches switched over to the OCU this year.

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