Kiev has imposed sanctions on 10 top clerics in the Russian Orthodox church. The move came after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced he was seeking to ban any religion with ties to the Russian Federation from operating in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s security services issued a statement on Sunday that announced penalties for 10 senior members of the Russian Orthodox Church, alleging the clerics were working with Moscow.
“The Security Service of Ukraine continues to carry out comprehensive work on the protection of Ukrainian statehood and will continue to expose persons who threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the statement said.
The measures are unlikely to have major impact, as all of the sanctioned religious figures are currently in Russian-controlled territory, but the sanctions are nonetheless part of a broader effort to purge Russian culture from Ukraine. In his nightly address on Thursday, Zelensky said it was necessary to ban all religious organizations with ties to Russia, insisting the country must “never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul.”
The number of Ukrainians who practice in Russian Orthodox parishes is unclear. Some recent polling places the number as low as 15%, but those surveys did not consult Ukrainians living in Russian-held territory. Zelensky has vowed to retake all of Ukraine, suggesting that millions of people living in the Donbass and Crimea could lose their ability to worship if those regions are retaken by Kiev.