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Zelensky-founded studio under fire for ‘blasphemy’

The comedy show’s attack on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church crossed the line into “spiritual war,” the institution has said

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has lashed out at a comedy studio that used to have now-President Vladimir Zelensky among its stars and co-owners, alleging that actors on the show made offensive remarks about the religious organization.

The episode “was drenched with blasphemy” and mocked “not only the Church, but also faith in God per se, and thus it offended the religious feelings of all Christians in our nation,” the UOC said in a statement on Wednesday. A message in the name of “clergy and lay people,” which was published by the UOC’s press office online, urged the Kvartal 95 (District 95) studio to remove the content.

The show, which purports to cover national news in a humorous way, released the controversial piece online last Wednesday. The UOC was its predominant subject, with hosts accusing it of being a corrupt organization full of “agents of Russia.” They cheered on Ukrainian law enforcement officials, who recently executed dozens of search warrants in UOC churches all across Ukraine. The Ukrainian government is investigating the UOC for alleged ties with Russia.

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In one part, the hosts reported that a young man in Ukraine was fined about $3 for cursing at a UOC priest and declared that it was a small price to pay for harassing the clergy.

They went on to suggest a “price list” for other actions, such as spitting at a priest, “nailing the Holy Scripture to an SUV” used by one, and hitting one “on the left cheek, and automatically on the right one too.” Kicking the UOC out of Ukraine is “priceless,” the ‘joke’ concluded, paraphrasing the famous MasterCard ad campaign.

If the episode is not pulled, the Church said it would consider it “a declaration of spiritual war against [its] multimillion congregation” and act accordingly. It also announced filing a criminal complaint about the Kvartal 95 piece, arguing that the episode incited hatred against the faithful. 

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The SBU, Ukraine’s domestic security agency, has been raiding UOC properties since mid-November in what critics called a politically-motivated persecution campaign. The Church has historical ties with the Russian Ortodox Church, and remains the biggest religious organization in the country.

December 15, 2022 at 09:05PM
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