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The UOC (allegedly not of the MP) is one step away from a complete ban. The president pledged not to stop. What will happen next

The church problem, namely the pronounced anti-Ukrainian activities by some representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (allegedly not of the Moscow Patriarchate), has been accumulating for a long while. It became especially acute after the creation of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in December 2018. It was expected that at least 10 bishops of the UOC (then of the Moscow Patriarchate) would join the Unification Council, but only two (Oleksandr Drabynko and Simeon Vinnytskyy) arrived. The Russian Orthodox Church did not recognize the OCU as a full-fledged local church (there are 15 of them in world Orthodoxy, the OCU became the 15th), wildly quarreled with Constantinople over this, even broke canonical communion with it (an absolutely unprecedented and rather stupid story). The UOC gladly supported it in this.


Including at its Council on 27 May 2022, where it declared a "divorce" from the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), making appropriate amendments to the Charter. These amendments, however, have not yet been published, but the UOC is very offended when the truth is told that it is of the Moscow Patriarchate. Because, from the point of view of canon law (to which all world Orthodoxy is subject), the UOC was, is and remains part of the ROC. It cannot "secede" on its own.


So, all these years, the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) spat poison at the OCU, its hierarchy often went to Moscow to pray with Gundyayev, Metropolitan Onufriy defiantly remained sitting when everyone in the Ukrainian parliament stood up to commemorate the fallen Ukrainian soldiers.

But everyone pretended that it was necessary, everything was fine, let's move on.

And so recently the situation has changed dramatically. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a series of searches of the leaders of the UOC (not of the MP), as a result of which three are already suspects in criminal cases. They even came to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, where not by chance they found a whole crowd of "pilgrims" with Russian passports and corresponding accent (they lived there for months in hotels, apparently praying).

Photo: Security Service of Ukraine

President Zelensky announced the inclusion of certain dignitaries in the sanctions list (I will write in detail about the quality and content of this list below). Also, he announced a law that will prohibit the activities of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) due to its connection with the aggressor state. The icing on the cake is that the state finally registered the OCU monastery in the Lavra.

"What is going on? What does it all mean and what will happen next?" you may ask. explains the details in plain language.

How did the hoopla begin?

In September, I got hold of letters from the then deputy head of the capital's SBU main directorate, in which he ordered his subordinates to block the transition of church parishes from the UOC (MP) to the OCU in every possible way.

The presence of a lot of "true faith zealots" in top public offices has never been a secret. There are probably even more of them than Russian agents (although usually it is two in one), but this time the abuse of office to obstruct the freedom of religion (not to mention outright sabotage) was too obvious.

During the great war, yes.

A huge scandal erupted. Yuriy Palahnyuk (the author of those letters) was fired literally in a day as the information caught the eye of the acting head of the SBU, Vasyl Malyuk, and the reaction was instant.

Vasyl Malyuk
Photo: Interfax-Ukraine
Vasyl Malyuk

Actually, everything came together really well: Malysh is currently the acting head, as I said, but has a very good chance to become a full-fledged head of the SBU. For which, of course, it is necessary to display efficiency at work. And the topic of systematic anti-Ukrainian activities of the top leadership of the UOC (MP) was literally on the surface and has long been asking for attention. First of all in the interests of state security.

So the Service rolled up its sleeves and got down to business.

The first searches in the dioceses revealed tonnes of propaganda literature that denies the very existence of the Ukrainian state, approves the ideas of the "Russian world" and so on. Everywhere it was the same, which obviously indicates a system.

Photo: Security Service of Ukraine

An important detail.

In private conversations, representatives of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) complain that the security officers often seize books that are not "propaganda" in the literal sense of the word, but old scientific texts, various special literature, which a secular person does not understand at all and can "read" absolutely anything there.

Let's be honest: yes, this also happens, but the general picture, unfortunately, is exactly what you see in official reports.

How many Moscow priests have already been served with suspicions?

Three. Ionafan of Vinnytsya, Ioasaf of Kirovohrad and Father Zakhariya of the Lavra, after whose service "bell ringing floated over Russia".

The grounds are the same everywhere (with minor nuances), these are treason, incitement of inter-religious hatred, anti-Ukrainian activities, etc.

Metropolitan Ioanafan
Metropolitan Ioanafan

Does this mean that they will definitely be imprisoned?

This means that the SBU has enough verified evidence that the defendant is guilty. Then it must be proved, which is also a process: interviewing witnesses, collecting new evidence, etc.

To prevent the defendant from running away (if there is such a risk), a pre-trial measure of restraint is chosen. From personal recognizance (if lawyers convince the court that the defendant will not flee) to detention.

In the first case, the person at large will wait for the completion of the investigation. When it is completed, the files are transferred to the court, and the prosecution gets time to get acquainted with the materials. Then the adversarial process of the parties and, finally, the court decision.

Is the first one already in?

Yes. On Friday evening, Kyiv's Solomyanskyy district court sent Father Zakhariya from the Lavra under personal recognizance.

The one after whose service "bell ringing floated over Russia".

Father Zakariya
Photo: Courtesy of the author
Father Zakariya

He did not sing it himself, it is absolutely true. As well as the fact that the chant is not a prayer.

The choir, which consists of regular parishioners, sang, and they sing there all the time, but this is the first time it was filmed.

I wrote in detail about Zakhariya, who is a local Lavra "curiosity", here.

If somehow you missed the story about Mark the Digger's hat for Pugacheva and the dollar rate predictions, be sure to read it. But, I need to warn you, it is very funny.

In his defence in court, Zakhariya said that he regularly prays for the army and victory, but did not specify whose army and whose victory. He does not recognize Russia as an aggressor and goes to Crimea for treatment.

What about the other two suspects?

Ionafan of Vinnytsya is recovering from a stroke and heart surgery. No, this is not staged - he is really an old and sick man.

Metropolitan Ioasaf
Photo: Courtesy of the author
Metropolitan Ioasaf

Ioasaf of Kirovohrad was only served the suspicion yesterday. Do you think the Synod reacted to a series of searches the day before? Yes, but not by condemning him, but by actually promoting - Ioasaf himself requested a resignation from the Kirovohrad diocese "for health reasons", so he was transferred as a vicar to Kyiv. They call it "punishment".

What about sanctions?

The situation with sanctions is still strange. It seems that the list was compiled by a person who is not very knowledgeable in church affairs.

Currently, there are 10 people there. The biggest "fish" are deacon Vadym Novinskyy and the rector of the Lavra, Pavlo (Lebid). Also, Crimea's Lazar, his bishops and one archimandrite. That is, all the respected Crimean priests, which is logical. Let me remind you that at the Council on 27 May, the UOC declared that it is no longer of the Moscow Patriarchate and breaks with the ROC.

Metropolitan Pavlo and Vadym Novinskyy
Photo: Max Levin
Metropolitan Pavlo and Vadym Novinskyy

The Crimeans (who joined by video link) did not agree with this decision and the next day asked Moscow to accept them under omophorion (that is, in secular language, in direct subordination). The ROC, of course, gladly agreed, quickly gathered the Synod and formalized everything.

Do you think the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) reacted somehow? Well, at least somehow?

No. Why would they? If you put something from the right pocket of the jacket to the left, what will change?

It is the same here.

The list also includes three fugitive collaborators: Yelysey (Izyum), Iosyf (Romny), Arkadiy (Rovenky).

That's it.

The main unanswered question is where is Metropolitan Antoniy (Pakanych) of Boryspil?

He is the right hand of His Beatitude Onufriy, the head of the affairs of the entire UOC (allegedly not of the MP), the main conductor of the ideas of the "Russian world".

The heads of the UOC (MP) Metropolitans Onufriy and Antoniy (Pakanych)
The heads of the UOC (MP) Metropolitans Onufriy and Antoniy (Pakanych)

No doubt, it is very symbolic to "crack down" on Novinskyy (who is also under Russian sanctions) and Lebid (who has long kept everything in foreign accounts). But it is negligence, to say the least, not to touch Antoniy, who, by the way, is the holder of a Russian passport (he definitely had it as of 2009).

Where are Luka of Zaporizhzhya and Paisiy of Kostyantynivka (separatists who should be labelled all over), the godmother of the Medvedchuks' daughter (who baptized their daughter together with Huilo [Putin]) Stefaniya (Bandura), Agafangel of Odesa (let me remind you his famous phrase from 2014): "All the forces of hell gathered in Kyiv's Maydan". However, Agafangel is smart - now he is keeping low profile)?

Where is Meletiy of Chernivtsi, the boss of barefoot Nikita who has a Russian passport?

Metropolitan Meletiy
Photo: Courtesy of the author
Metropolitan Meletiy

Well, and quite simply: where are the three devils who sat in the Kremlin at the ceremony of "joining new territories"?

These are, let me remind you, Metropolitan Panteleymon of Luhansk and Alchevsk; Archimandrite Ioann (Prokopenko), rector of the Melitopol St. Savva Monastery; Archimandrite Aleksiy (Fedorov), rector of the Holy Dormition Cathedral in Kherson. The latter is the confessor of collaborator Saldo, and he was sitting not behind some column, but right next to [Chechen leader Ramzan] Kadyrov. How about it.

Archimandrite Aleksiy (Fedorov)
Photo: Screenshot
Archimandrite Aleksiy (Fedorov)

The list can be continued. But I hope these mistakes will be corrected in the near future.

The OCU monastery is registered in the Lavra. Does this mean that the Lavra is transferred to the OCU?

No, it doesn't.

The story is as follows. In the spring, the OCU decided to establish its monastery in the Lavra and submitted the relevant documents for registration. The State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Consicence asked the documents to be corrected, they were corrected, re-submitted and again returned for "correction" - these "swings" had lasted almost six months, and, finally, the legal entity was registered. However, it was registered at 14, Lavrska Street, where the St. Theodosius Monastery is located (close to the Upper Lavra).

This means that the OCU can enter the territory of the so-called Upper Lavra, which is now a museum and is subordinate to the Ministry of Culture (more precisely, the National Reserve, which in turn is subordinate to the Ministry of Culture).

There are several churches there that are not occupied by museums (that is, no-one will disturb anyone) and may well be used by the OCU.

Actually, this is the way it was planned. But today we have only the fact of registration of a legal entity, nothing more. The monastery itself still needs to be organized, the brethren gathered and its head elected (currently - ex officio - it is His Beatitude Epifaniy), etc.

Kyiv Pechersk Lavra
Photo: EPA/UPG
Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

It is not a one-day process.

If there is the Upper Lavra, is there the Lower Lavra?

That's right. And it is in the Lower Lavra that the monastery of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) is located, the abbot of which is Pavlo (Lebid).

World Orthodoxy knows examples of the neighborhood of sworn enemies in the same territory. For example, the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos.

If you are interested - google it, I do not want to overload you with information.

That is, the Lavra will be taken away from the UOC (allegedly not the MP)?

Maybe they will. But specifically the Lower Lavra.

This would only require a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers. With the approval of the Ministry of Culture. After the word "Ministry of Culture" I will allow myself to put a smiley.

In 2013, during the time of Prime Minister Azarov, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra was transferred to the UOC (then - MP) for free use, but we hope that since President Zelenskyy has already instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to deal with this, and MPs (in particular Oleksiy Honcharenko from the European Solidarity party) have repeatedly asked for this, the issue will be resolved.

And what about other Lavras?

There are three of them in Ukraine - in addition to the one in Kyiv, there are also Lavra in Pochayiv and Svyatohirsk. The latter two also use their premises on the long-term lease from the state (although for different periods and under different conditions). For example, the Pochayiv Lavra is in lease until 2052.

As for the Svyatohirsk Lavra, I will just remind you a few facts. In 2014, before the capture of Slovyansk, Igor Girkin stocked weapons, hid militants and himself on its territory. In 2022, during the occupation of Svyatohirsk, its monks actively cooperated with the invaders. When the monastery began to be actively shelled, and its jewel - the All-Saints Skit - burned to the ground, the monks only complained: they say, God sent punishment for no reason."

Svyatohirsk Lavra
Photo: EPA/UPG
Svyatohirsk Lavra

There were reports that the boss of barefoot Nikita fled to Moldova. Is it true?

Indeed, on Thursday, Meletiy held a service in the Moldovan city of Ungheni. But, as of Friday, he already returned to Ukraine. The reason is simple - on Sunday, 4 December, his subordinate, barefoot Nikita, will be ordained a bishop. So that he, according to the decision of the Synod, could go to Ivano-Frankivsk Region. Where there is only one church of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP).

Yes, he will be ordained no matter what. Possibly personally by Onufriy. For some reason, the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) thinks that if he is a bishop, no-one will touch him. Strange "logic". As if "generals do not go to jail". And there is a lot to be jailed for. At the very least - for child pornography (preliminary findings of experts indicate that it was not downloaded from the internet, but filmed in-house), which security officers found in computers.

No to mention Meletiy's Russian passport.

Photo: Security Service of Ukraine

A respected man, by the way, the successor of Metropolitan Onufriy at the Bukovyna diocese (he would never appoint any alien to his homeland), a potential successor to Pavlo (Lebid) as the head of the Lavra. Moreover, Meletiy is the head of the Department of External Church Relations of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP). A kind of "Ministry of Foreign Affairs".

It is Meletiy with his Russian passport who travels the world and opens new parishes of the UOC (allegedly not of the MP). Often they are located literally across the fence from the parishes of the ROC (for example, in Belgium). I have long said that these are not parishes, but

A) an agent network;

B) undercover "laundromats".

Otherwise, please tell me, would Muscovites tolerate this? It is clear that they would not.

By the way. Look at this document from Denmark, certified with Meletiy's facsimile.

And the last thing. Zelensky instructed the Cabinet of Ministers to draft a bill against Moscow priests. How is it possible? You said that it is impossible to ban them by law.

Directly, yes, it is impossible. Because Ukraine is a secular state, according to the Constitution, and the Constitution is not changed during the war.

But now we have an instruction to the government from the National Security and Defence Council, in particular, "within two months to develop and submit to parliament a bill that will make it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with Russia-based centres of influence to work in Ukraine".

So far there is too little information - I have not even managed to find out who in the government will deal with this. Because here you need a person who is in the know, including as regards canon law, otherwise it will turn out like with the previous thematic bills (not worth the paper they are written on).

Head of the UOC (MP) Metropolitan Onufriy
Head of the UOC (MP) Metropolitan Onufriy

Basically, we already have a similar law dating back to 2018. It was from under its action that the UOC (allegedly not of the MP) tried to get out by adopting amendments to its Charter (which, again, no-one has officially seen). But the devil, as always, is in the details. In particular, how to establish communication with the "centres of influence in Russia"?

Perhaps by means of counterintelligence activities (in accordance with the relevant law)? Why not?

We will know about it very soon.

Sonya KoshkinaSonya Koshkina, editor in chief
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