Ukrainian deputies accuse Orthodox priests of aiding Russia


Verkhovna Rada considers draft law about ties with religious centers in aggressor country

by Dmitry Sviatnenko

TSN, 17 May 2016


Deputies are considering a draft law which regulates the activity of religious structures administered from the Russian federation.


The Verkhovna Rada proposes to restrict the rights of religious organizations whose administrative bodies are located in Russia. The draft law, which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate hastened to label discriminatory, was introduced by ten deputies, a TSN.19:30 program says.


Bogdan Lesorub went through rehabilitation in a Kiev hospital after a concussion. The fighter of the Aidar battalion spent three years in the ATO zone. He says that there he had to fight not only with militants and Russian occupiers.  Bogdan names as his enemy also the rector of the local church in Trekhisbenka, Father Alexander. "He did not come, he sent people, in order to drive us out of there. He set the people against us. Several times, we saw a couple of times, he sent signals from the bell tower with a flashlight—artillery troops were in Slavianoserbsk. Their tanks were there. So they shelled us after this," the fighter recalls. The Aidar troops delivered the rector to the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU]. But three weeks later he was released. And there were hundreds of such cases on the eastern front. For example, in Izvarino local priests openly blessed terrorist mercenaries. By coincidence all such examples involve priests of the Moscow patriarchate. But only one was punished there, Father Vladimir Moretsky from Slaviansk. Back in 2014 he jointed the ranks of militants and killed Ukrainians. He was taken prisoner and subsequently militants exchanged him for Ukrainian fighters. In the DPR he was awarded the hero's star. The church was outraged only that he took up arms, and he was removed from ministry. Temporarily, until he repents.


The deputies want to restrict the rights of religious organizations whose administrative bodies are located in the RF. The draft law was introduced by ten deputies and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate hastened to call it discriminatory. What does the law mean for church people and why has it been decided to adopt it only now?


In the third year of the war, people's deputies decided to take control of the activity of religious organizations whose centers are located in Russia. The draft law does not contain the name of churches, but the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate has already called it directed against them. "This idea of a draft law, the idea of several deputies, does not bring anything for Ukraine except what is negative. First, there are clear signs of discrimination. There are signs of the interference of the state in church affairs," the press secretary of the UPTsMP, Arichpriest Nikolai Danilevich, emphasized.


The draft law has basic points: religious organizations with administrative bodies in Russia conclude with the government an agreement for recognition and respect for the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity, they agree on the appointment of high officials and also on visits of priests from the aggressor country. "Several church parishes whose administrative bodies are located in a country which actually is conducting a war against Ukraine conduct sabotage against Ukraine and agitation work against Ukraine and they call this an FSB operation, an armed operation of a 'fratricidal war' by Putin against Ukraine," one of the authors of the draft law, people's deputy Oleg Medunitsa, says.


"In any case, we are not saying that it is necessary to ban the church. One should not say that these parishioners of the UPTsMP, that all the clergy, all the priests are pro-Moscow. Not in any case. But the leadership. Several elements of the leadership of the church," a co-author of the draft, deputy Sergei Vysotsky, emphasized.


Religious studies scholars call the draft law more than democratic, and they recall that in Russia itself during the war with Germany all Lutheran priests were exiled to Siberia. "And the state must strictly see to it that the Moscow patriarchate does not conduct espionage," religious studies scholar Andrei Kovalev thinks.


And the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev patriarchate declares that ordinary parishioners will not even feel the changes. "Their freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, will not be restricted. That is, these priests and believers will go to their churches and nobody will restrict them. But the leadership will be restricted," Patriarch Filaret explained.


The Moscow patriarchate has not concealed its displeasure. They are waiting for proofs, documented and demonstrated in court. All the rest do not see or do not want to see. "If a priest violates the law, and calls for separatism, and cooperates with foreign intelligence agents, well that's for the SBU. Let the fact be established by a court. There is crime and there is punishment," the UPTsMP insists.


Meanwhile in Russia spy priests, on the contrary, are boasting. A film was even made about them under the title "Priests of Special Purpose," in which it is described how priests of the Russian Orthodox Church conduct super-secret tasks in various hot spots.


This year, the historic head of the Ukrainian church, the Constantinople patriarch, received President Petro Poroshenko. Vladyka Bartholomew promised to pray for Ukraine. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 May 2016)

Russian original posted on site, 25 May 2016

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