March 12 (UPI) — Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, has blasted Ukrainian officials for ordering a Russian-aligned church to leave a Kyiv monastery.
“It is regrettable that when the state leadership of Ukraine declares its commitment to democratic norms, the European path of development, the observance of human rights and freedoms, these rights and freedoms are trampled today in the most blatant way,” Kirill said in a statement.
Ukraine’s Culture Ministry said in a statement Friday that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was ordered to leave the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra by March 29.
The monastery is owned by the Ukrainian government, which grants the free use of such buildings to religious organizations.
Ukraine’s Culture Ministry said that the notice to vacate was given based on the conclusions of a report which found that the church had violated the terms of the agreement for the use of state property.
The Ukrainian Secret Service announced in November that it had raided the monastery as the authorities searched hundreds of church buildings across Ukraine.
Authorities allegedly found pro-Russian propaganda at the monastery as well as Russian nationals who presented outdated identification from the Soviet Union.
The monastery, built nearly 1,000 years ago, was called the “first historical monument” of the ancient Rus by Kirill.
“Throughout the thousand-year history of the monastery, it has repeatedly suffered from raids, foreign conquests and outright persecution of Christians,” the Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement.
“But only during the reign of militant atheistic power in the twentieth century, the monastics of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra were expelled from the monastery.”
Kirill, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been a vocal supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“The origins of the confrontation lie in the relationships between the West and Russia,” Kirill said last year.
“By the 1990s Russia had been promised that its security and dignity would be respected. However, as time went by, the forces overtly considering Russia to be their enemy came close to its borders.”
On Sunday, Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, hit back after analysts asserted she had confirmed Kremlin infighting.