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22 Apr, 2024 06:19

Sanctions don’t scare me – Russian Christian leader

Patriarch Kirill has dismissed restrictions imposed on him by some EU member states
Sanctions don’t scare me – Russian Christian leader

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, has said he will not be intimidated by travel bans imposed by several EU nations. The restrictions are part of wider Western sanctions on Russia in response to its military operation in Ukraine.

“They’ve made the Patriarch persona non grata in Europe. Why? It’s because the Patriarch is spiritually leading the nation, leading the church that has taken a different civilizational path of development,” Kirill said during a service in Moscow.

“Perhaps, they have barred the Patriarch from traveling abroad because we represent a strong alternative [to the West]. As if they can threaten me with that.” 

Several countries, including Britain, Lithuania, Estonia, and the Czech Republic, have blacklisted Kirill since the fighting between Russia and Ukraine broke out in February 2022. Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky cited “his frequent public remarks supporting the war in Ukraine, justifying atrocities committed by Russian troops there” as reasons for the travel ban.

The EU stopped short of imposing bloc-wide restrictions on the head of the Russian Orthodox Church after Hungary blocked the move, calling it a “hostage policy” and citing religious freedom.

Kirill has repeatedly spoken in support of the Russian army, saying Russian soldiers in Ukraine are fighting “for our national values.” He argued that foreign powers target Russia because it is a “country of believers,” with the majority of people being devout Christians, as opposed to the West where people “are losing faith.”

Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the church’s press service, called the travel bans “counterproductive.” He stated that “no sanctions can force the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to change or abandon his opinion.”