The SBU Searched the Residence of the Abbot of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


In the morning of November 30th, SBU specialists started to search the place of residence of the vicar of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl. The search was carried out under the procedural management of the prosecutor’s office of the Kiev region “within the framework of a case concerning the incitement of interfaith hostility”.

Official confirmation of this information appeared on the website of the SBU. “Within the framework of criminal proceedings initiated concerning a criminal offense under part 2 of Article 161 (Violation of the equality of citizens based on their racial and national identity, religious beliefs, disability, and on other grounds) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, law enforcement bodies are carrying out a search at the place of residence and accommodation of the collective property that belongs to Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed),” it is said in the statement of the SBU.

As the media learnt from the judgment that granted permission to carry out searches, the Rzhishchivsky City Court of the Kiev region in accordance with the motion of the prosecutor of the Kagarlyksky local prosecutor’s office granted permission for carrying out a search in the apartment of Metropolitan Pavel and also in the Lavra.

Criminal proceedings were initiated after one of the interviews of Metropolitan Pavel.

In the court ruling it is said: “on October 25, 2018 a video was posted on the YouTube channel of ‘Glavnovosti’ that featured an interview with the deputy of the Svyato-Uspensky Kiev-Pechersk Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Petr Dmitriyevich Lebed under the name ‘Metropolitan Pavel about Filaret: He kissed a demon'”.

After viewing the specified interview, employees of the SBU’s department for the protection of national statehood drew the conclusion that Lebed’s statements violate the equality of citizens based on their religious beliefs. Within the framework of criminal proceedings law enforcement bodies carry out investigative actions, namely searches, for the purpose of identify records (notebooks, booklets, letters, documents) or electronic media confirming the preparation by the Metropolitan of deliberate actions aimed at inciting religious strife.

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The press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church confirmed that on November 30th, 2018, at 09:00, three buses transporting representatives of the SBU arrived at the territory of the subsidiary farm of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra in the village of Voronky in the Borispol district of the Kiev region for the purpose of carrying out a search.

Commenting on the procedural actions of the SBU, the Governor of the Svyato-Uspensky Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Metropolitan Pavel said that he had never lived in the house that the SBU searched. “Today, indeed, they were in the house that is registered in my name, but I haven’t lived there since 2013 … in 2014 this house was plundered, 5 icons were taken away, a box of vodka was taken away,” commented Father Pavel.

From the words of the Abbot of the Lavra it also follows that in the house where the search took place, law enforcement officers found some “brochure” that he has nothing to do with. He said the actions of law enforcement bodies equate to political pressure.

Earlier, at a briefing on November 29th, Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl spoke about being put under pressure by the authorities and noted that he doesn’t exclude that searches will be carried out by the Ukrainian special services. “If there really is such pressure, if searches really do happen, then I won’t stand aside. Let them go and search. I have no forbidden literature, I don’t have absolutely anything that would pose a threat to my Motherland. But I will defend the interests of the Church!” stressed the prior of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.

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Also, as is known, on November 28th in the Near Caves of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra the inventory of property began. It became known later that the inventory of property is being carried out by representatives of the Kiev-Pechersk reserve. The reserve is managed by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. On November 28th the Cabinet of Ministers ordered to include the Pochayev Svyato-Uspensky Lavra (Ternopol region) in the structure of the Kremenets-Pochayev reserve. These are two of the largest shrines of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

It should be emphasised that earlier the official authorities and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate repeatedly stated that there is need to transfer the Lavras to the united local church created under the patronage of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and also encouraged hate speech towards the clergy and parishioners of the only Canonical church – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed].

“Moscow – a state and a Russian church, FSB officials and clerics, people in uniforms, cassocks, crosses, lampasse – were ready to stoop to anything to disrupt this decision,” said Petro Poroshenko in his speech.

Earlier, on November 27th the president Petro Poroshenko at a meeting with voters in the city of Kozelets in the Chernigov region stated that “Tomos is what Ukraine prays for… It is important because our great nation deserved the right to have its own church … And definitely not to have a church that is run from Moscow. How is it possible to go to church if the service of God there starts with a prayer for Kirill [the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia], for Putin [Vladimir Putin, the president of the Russian Federation], and for the Russian army”.

During 2016-2018 the President Poroshenko and the parliament actively put political and administrative pressure on priests and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the purpose of forcing them to approve the project of creating a united local church in the format that is considered correct by presidential political circles. Such a situation is the inadmissible interference of state officials in the internal affairs of the Church, which not only must be separate from the state, but also has the right to preserve its status, including its legal and Canonical status.

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According to the report of the Ministry of Culture from January 1st, 2016, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] totalled 12,334 congregations, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate – 4921 congregations, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church – 1188 congregations. The report confirms the estimates of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate – ed] that since 2014 about 100 congregations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have changed their confessional affiliation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate.

As a reminder, according to article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, everyone has the right to freedom of worldview and religion. The church and religious organisations in Ukraine are separate from the state, and schools are separate from the church. No religion can be recognised by the state as obligatory. Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is also guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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