New law would ban religious groups in Ukraine associated with Russia

New law would ban religious groups in Ukraine associated with Russia

Ukraine’s parliament will vote on a new law that would ban the operation of religious organizations “affiliated with centers of influence” in Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday, in an effort to prevent an “opportunity to manipulate” Ukrainians.

“Unfortunately, even Russian terror and full-scale war did not convince some figures that it is worth overcoming the temptation of evil. Well, we have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within,” the Ukrainian president said in a statement.

“The National Security and Defense Council instructed the Government to submit to the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s parliament] a draft law on making it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine,” he said.

Here’s some background: The proposed law comes after the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) raided a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, on November 22 as part of an effort to counter suspected “subversive activities” by Russia’s special services.

The raid was aimed at preventing the “use of Ukrainian Orthodox Church premises for hiding sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, storing weapons,” SBU said.

“All bodies responsible for ensuring national security must intensify measures to identify and counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in the religious environment of Ukraine. And apply personal sanctions — the surnames will be made public soon,” Zelensky said on Thursday.

In his statement, Zelensky also said “a religious examination” of the Management Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be conducted “for the presence of a church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate and, if necessary, to take measures provided for by law.”

These and other decisions are aimed at guaranteeing “Ukraine’s spiritual independence,” Zelensky said.

In May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church officially broke allegiance with the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader Patriarch Kirill over the war, saying it considers the invasion “a violation of God’s commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’.”

Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has supported the war in Ukraine.

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