Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Ukraine’s parliament will vote on a new law that would ban the activities of religious groups “linked to centers of Russian influence” to prevent “the opportunity to manipulate” Ukrainians.
“Unfortunately, even Russia’s terror and all-out war have not convinced some that overcoming the temptation of evil is worthwhile. Well, we must create conditions where no actor dependent on an aggressive state has the opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and Weakening Ukraine from within,” Ukraine’s president said in a statement.
“The National Security and Defense Council directed the government to submit to the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s parliament] A draft law prohibiting the activities of religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation from operating in Ukraine,” he said.
Here’s some background: The proposed law comes after Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) raided Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a historic Orthodox monastery in Kiev on Nov. 22, as part of efforts to combat alleged “subversive activities” by Russian special forces.
The SBU said the raid was aimed at preventing “the use of the premises of Ukrainian Orthodox churches to hide sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens and store weapons”.
“All agencies responsible for ensuring national security must strengthen measures to detect and counter the subversive activities of Russian special forces in Ukraine’s religious environment. And impose sanctions on individuals – the last names will be made public soon,” Zelensky said on Thursday.
In his statement, Zelensky also said that a “religious review” of the governing charter of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will be carried out “to determine whether there are ecclesiastical links with the Moscow Patriarchate and, if necessary, to take legally prescribed measures.”
These and other decisions were aimed at guaranteeing “Ukraine’s spiritual independence,” Zelensky said.
In May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church formally announced an alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, on the war issue, saying it believed the invasion “violated God’s commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill'”.
Kirill is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and supports the war in Ukraine.