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Ukrainian cops put ankle monitor on senior Orthodox bishop

Authorities ordered the Kiev Pechersk Lavra abbot to stay away from the historic monastery they seek to seize

A senior cleric in Ukraine’s most prominent Orthodox monastery, Metropolitan Pavel, has been placed under house arrest and barred from attending services of worship for two months, amid an ongoing religious crackdown and attempts to evict hundreds of monks from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

At a pretrial detention hearing on Saturday, Metropolitan Pavel (secular name Pyotr Lebed) was ordered to stay in a village some 50 kilometers away from the capital. The hearing was initially postponed after the 61-year-old cleric, who has served as abbot of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra since 1994, felt unwell. However, he was brought to court again in the evening, and officially placed under house arrest for 60 days.

Authorities put a tracking device on the cleric’s ankle, according to videos shared on social media. The judge denied Pavel’s plea to stay confined inside the monastery, but also shot down the prosecutor’s request to ban him from sharing videos online.

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) accused Metropolitan Pavel of “inciting religious hatred” and “justifying” Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The cleric has denied the allegations, insisting that he has always condemned Moscow’s military operation and “stood in defense of my motherland.”

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FILE PHOTO: The Kiev Pechersk Lavra Orthodox monastery
Ukraine moves to seize historic monastery

Ukraine has long experienced religious tensions, with several entities claiming to be the true Orthodox Church. The two main rivals are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and the Kiev-backed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which is considered by the Russian Orthodox Church to be schismatic. Kiev officials intensified their crackdown on UOC, even though it proclaimed independence from Moscow after the start of the conflict in February 2022.

The Ukrainian ministry of culture denied the UOC a renewal of tenancy in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, effectively “kicking out to the streets” some 220 monks living there, as Pavel described it. The eviction deadline came this week, but authorities have yet to forcefully seize the monastery, amid ongoing rival protests outside. In January 2023, the government evicted the UOC from the Dormition Cathedral and the Refectory Church, adjacent to the Lavra, and immediately gave permission to the OCU to hold a Christmas service there.

Moscow has repeatedly condemned President Vladimir Zelensky’s crackdown as persecution of Orthodox Christianity. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted on Saturday that April Fools’ Day was held “with great fanfare in Kiev,” sharing a video of a crowd of protesters dancing around a woman who was praying on her knees in the middle of the street.

“Orthodoxy is being abused, mocked and sneered at before our eyes,” she said. “The civilized remain silent. That’s not the occasion for which they wrote their human rights declarations and reports on religious freedom.”

April 02, 2023 at 06:30AM

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