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Ukrainian Court Orders Orthodox Priest Under House Arrest Amid Dispute over Monastery

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra

A bitter dispute over the revered Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery has taken a dramatic turn with a Ukrainian court ordering Metropolitan Pavel, the abbot of the complex and a leading Orthodox priest, to be placed under house arrest. Pavel is accused by authorities of condoning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a criminal offense, despite his denials. The priest has resisted the authorities’ order to vacate the complex, citing his loyalty to Ukraine and the monastery’s historical ties.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) initially raided Pavel’s residence, confiscating documents and computers, and subsequently accused him of justifying Russian aggression. Pavel maintained that the charges were politically driven and that he had never supported the invasion. In a court hearing, he even cursed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, threatening him with damnation. The SBU requested that Pavel be placed under house arrest pending the investigation, citing concerns over his potential to interfere with the probe.

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra

The conflict surrounding the monastery is part of a wider religious struggle unfolding in parallel with the ongoing war. The Ukrainian government has cracked down on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which has historic ties to the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill. The UOC has consistently denied any ties to the Russian government, condemning the invasion of Ukraine and affirming its loyalty to the country. However, Ukrainian security agencies claim that some in the church have maintained close connections with Moscow, citing evidence of Russian flags, roubles, and propaganda materials found at holy sites of the church.

The dispute over the monastery’s property is rooted in a lease agreement that the government claims was violated by the monks, citing technical infractions and unauthorized alterations to the historic site. The monks, however, reject these claims as a pretext, insisting that they are simply exercising their rights as property holders. In response to the government’s orders to vacate by March 29, dozens of UOC supporters gathered outside the monastery, singing hymns in the rain. A smaller group of protesters also appeared, accusing the other side of sympathizing with Moscow.

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