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Moscow lashes out at Kiev for decision to expel monks from Lavra

The move is “lawless and arbitrary,” a senior Russian diplomat has said

The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned a Ukrainian court ruling that enables the country’s government to begin forcibly evicting monks from the historic Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

The court ruling is yet another “lawless and arbitrary” decision by Ukrainian officials, a senior Russian diplomat, Gennady Askaldovich, said in a statement on Friday.

“Another lawless and arbitrary act has been undertaken by the Kiev regime, which fabricated a lawsuit and received a ruling suiting itself,” Askaldovich, who serves as a special envoy on cooperation to ensure freedom of conscience, stated.


The diplomat questioned the purported independence of Ukrainian courts, suggesting that the whole system has degraded beyond the point its decisions may still be treated as legal and legitimate. The country’s judiciary now effectively exists in an atmosphere of “high politicization, legal lawlessness, and moral terror,” Askaldovich wrote. In such circumstances, it is unlikely that attempts to appeal the court ruling would yield any different result, the diplomat noted.

“But, perhaps, international courts, unlike international human rights organizations, will pay attention to the legal nihilism that is happening in Ukraine, take into account the arguments of the defenders of the Lavra, and make a proper judicial decision,” he suggested. However, he admitted that international bodies might be too sloppy to react in time and the Lavra will end up “ransacked.”

The ruling was issued by a Ukrainian court on Thursday, with the judiciary upholding the motion of the national historic monastery to “remove obstacles to the use of property” by evicting the monks. A day before, the same court ruled that the country’s government was within its rights to terminate a lease deal for the monastery with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).

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File photo: Kiev Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves) in Ukraine
Ukraine bans Christian monks from their monastery

The legal team representing the UOC has claimed the court had committed several violations while working on the case and alleged the ruling came under pressure from the government.

“We are listening to a short text of one of the most shameful decisions in the history of modern Ukraine!” Nikita Chekman, an attorney representing the UOC, has said, pledging to appeal the ruling.

The UOC has found itself under mounting pressure from the country’s authorities amid the ongoing hostilities between Ukraine and Russia. The Church formally severed its ties to Moscow early into the conflict, yet the move did not spare it from persecution.

Ukrainian officials have openly favored the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a schismatic entity created back in 2018 with active participation of then-president Pyotr Poroshenko. The new entity has been actively laying claims on property controlled by the canonical Church, with the government supporting such efforts. For instance, Ukrainian Culture Minister Aleksandr Tkachenko said back in March that any monks who defected to the OCU from the UOC could stay at the Lavra, while roughly a third of Ukraine’s regions have opted to outright ban the canonical church.


August 12, 2023 at 02:02AM

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