Ukraine issues sanctions against senior clerics in pro-Moscow church

Kyiv claims Ukraine's branch of the Russian Orthodox Church has justified the invasion

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Ukraine has issued sanctions against 10 senior clerics linked to a pro-Moscow church because they agreed to work with Russian occupation authorities or justified Moscow's invasion, Kyiv's security service said on Saturday.

The announcement is the latest in a series of steps against a Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church historically linked to Moscow. The Orthodox Church in Russia itself backs the war.

The security services said the 10 clerics had variously agreed to co-operate with occupation authorities, promoted pro-Russian narratives and justified Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

Most of the clerics — all either members of the church or closely linked to it — live in territories controlled by Russia or are abroad, the service said.

"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," it said.

The Ukrainian church formally severed ties with the Russian Orthodox Church in May, but is still mistrusted by many Ukrainians and remains accused of secret co-operation with Russia.

The sanctions, which will last for five years, will freeze the assets of those on the list, block them from exporting capital from Ukraine and prevent them from owning land.

The security service has also carried out several raids on parishes and buildings linked to the church, which insists it has always followed Ukrainian law. Orthodox Christians make up the majority of Ukraine's 43 million people.

Since the collapse of Soviet rule, competition has been fierce between the Moscow-linked church and an independent Ukrainian church proclaimed soon after independence.

Updated: December 04, 2022, 5:51 AM