Zelensky-founded studio under fire for ‘blasphemy’
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has lashed out at a comedy studio that once boasted now-President Vladimir Zelensky among its stars and co-owners, alleging that actors made offensive remarks about the institution.
The Bayraktar News show, produced by the Kvartal 95 (District 95) studio, purports to cover national news in a humorous way. The UOC was the predominant subject in its latest episode, with hosts claiming the church is a corrupt organization full of “agents of Russia.” The Ukrainian government is currently investigating the UOC for alleged ties with Russia.
A UOC statement claimed on Wednesday that the episode “was drenched with blasphemy” and mocked “not only the Church, but also faith in God per se, and thus it offended the religious feelings of all Christians in our nation.”
In one scene, the hosts reported that a young man in Ukraine had been fined $3 for cursing at a UOC priest, commenting that it was a small price to pay for harassing the clergy.
The routine went on to suggest a “price list” for acts, such as spitting at a priest, “nailing the Holy Scripture to an SUV” used by one, and hitting one “on the left cheek, and automatically on the right one too.” Kicking the UOC out of Ukraine is “priceless,” the ‘joke’ concluded, paraphrasing the famous MasterCard ad campaign.
A message in the name of “clergy and lay people,” which was published by the UOC’s press office online, urged the studio to remove the content. The Church said it would consider “a declaration of spiritual war against [its] multimillion congregation” and act accordingly, if the episode is not pulled.
It also announced filing a criminal complaint against Kvartal, arguing that the episode incited hatred against the faithful.
The SBU, Ukraine’s domestic security agency, has conducted raids on UOC properties since mid-November, in what critics have called a politically-motivated campaign. The Church has historical ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, and remains the biggest religious institution in the country.