| 28 February 2024, Wednesday |

Ukraine puts head of Russian church on “wanted” list

The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, who has supported the Kremlin’s 21-month-old war against Kyiv, was accused by security services of aiding and abetting the conflict, and as such was placed on a wanted list by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry on Friday.

Since Patriarch Kirill is in Russia and not in danger of being detained, the action is merely symbolic. It was the most recent move in Ukraine’s attempt to undermine the power of priests who, it claims, undermine Ukrainian society and have strong ties to Russia.

A post on the Ukrainian ministry’s wanted list identified Kirill by name, showed him in his clerical robes and described him as “an individual in hiding from the bodies of pre-trial investigation”. It said he had been “missing” since November 11.

Orthodox Christianity is the dominant faith in Ukraine and authorities in Kyiv have launched criminal cases against clergy linked to a branch of the Orthodox church once directly linked to the Russian church and Kirill.

Parliament in Kyiv is considering a bill that would ban that branch of the church, which has lost many of its parishioners since Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022. The church says it severed all links to Moscow in May 2022.

Ukraine’s SBU security service last month issued a document saying Kirill “infringed Ukrainian sovereignty” by virtue of his position as “part of the closest entourage of Russia’s military and political leadership”.

Security forces have launched dozens of criminal cases, including accusations of treason, against priests and officials linked to the branch of the church associated with Moscow.

Kirill has denounced those actions and appealed to clerical leaders world-wide to stop Ukraine’s moves against the church.

A senior official in the Russian church told Russia’s RIA news agency that placing Kirill on a wanted list was “a step that is as ridiculous as it is predictable”.

Vladimir Legoida, responsible for ties with other churches, told RIA that Ukrainian authorities were guilty of “lawlessness and attempting to intimidate parishioners”.

  • Reuters