Ukraine has ratcheted up its campaign against a branch of the Eastern Orthodox church with ties to Russia. On the order of President Volodymyr Zelensky, seven senior clerics from the Russian Orthodox church will have their assets seized and face bans on a range of economic and legal activities.
During his nightly video address on Sunday, the Ukrainian president said “by decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, sanctions were applied against seven people,” adding that his administration is “doing everything to ensure that the aggressor state does not have a single string of Ukrainian society to pull.”
According to Reuters, the new penalties mean that the seven clerics will have “their assets seized and are subject to a ban on a range of economic and legal activities as well as a de facto travel ban.”
The vast majority of Ukrainians belong to Eastern Orthodox churches, with many worshiping in parishes that take direction from the Moscow Patriarchate. On December 1, Zelensky announced that Kiev would attempt to expel all religious institutions with ties to Russia, arguing the move would make “it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine.”
The president went on the claim that the Russian Orthodox Church poses a threat to Ukrainian culture, saying “we will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul.” He additionally denounced Ukrainians who continue to attend the allegedly Russia-controlled parishes as succumbing to “the temptation of evil.”
Kiev has conducted a series of raids on Russian Orthodox parishes and claims to have uncovered clerics attempting to subvert the Ukrainian government, though has provided little evidence to support its assertions. Nonetheless, Kiev sanctioned 10 top clerics of the church last week, suggesting they threatened ”the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”