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6 Nov, 2023 12:28

Ukraine’s KGB successor targets Russian church leader

The country’s security service believes Patriarch Kirill has spread “propaganda” supporting Moscow’s military campaign
Ukraine’s KGB successor targets Russian church leader

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has designated Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, as a suspect in a criminal case related to his alleged active support of Moscow’s military operation against Kiev.

In a statement on Saturday, the agency said that together with the Prosecutor General’s Office it had gathered evidence against the religious leader and accused him of “promoting the armed aggression of the Russian Federation and denying the war crimes.”

The SBU claimed that Kirill “is a member of the inner circle of Russia’s top military and political leadership,” adding that he uses Orthodox communities both at home and in Ukraine “to spread propaganda.”

In total, according to the security service, the primate could face three criminal charges, including encroachment on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, “justification” and “glorification” of Russia’s actions in the conflict, as well as “planning, preparation, initiation, and waging an aggressive war.”

On February 24, 2022, the day Russia started its military operation, Kirill urged both sides to do their best to avoid civilian casualties, while arguing that centuries-old ties between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples would allow them to overcome the political schism.

A month later, he declared that Russia had “entered a struggle of not physical, but metaphysical significance.” He has also blasted both the Ukrainian government and its Western backers for “sabotaging” Russian efforts to resolve the conflict in Donbass since 2014, when hostilities first erupted in the region.

In September, the patriarch opined that “Russia faces the main task of emerging victorious from the struggle that has been unleashed by the forces of evil” while calling for the “mobilization” of all of Russian society.

Kirill has been placed under sanctions by Ukraine and a number of Western countries. The Russian Orthodox Church has denounced the restrictions, suggesting that they only play into the hands of those who “see the escalation of the conflict and the drift away from peace as an important goal.”

The investigation targeting the Russian church leader comes as the SBU, along with other Ukrainian government agencies, continues an unprecedented crackdown on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), suspecting it of being a Russian tool despite it severing ties with Moscow shortly after the start of the conflict. Ukrainian officials have seized a number of UOC churches and turned them over to the Kiev-backed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) which is considered schismatic by the Russian Orthodox Church.