In a move that has been justified as an effort to counter suspected subversive activities of Russian special services in Ukraine, the Ukrainian security service raided a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv on Tuesday.
As well as being a place of pilgrimage, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, which was founded in the 11th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyiv.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said in a statement that the raid on the Lavra was aimed to prevent the use of Ukrainian Orthodox Church premises for hiding sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, storing weapons, and as a cell of the Russian world.
The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, is home to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which cut ties with Moscow and declared full independence back in May.
A branch of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine, UOC has been traditionally loyal to the leader of the Russian church, Patriarch Kirill, who’s a close ally of Vladimir Putin and a supporter of his war on Ukraine.
Moscow has promptly condemned the SBU raid on the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov depicting it as another example of Ukraine’s hostility to Russian Orthodoxy, underscoring that Kyiv has long been at war with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Responded to the raid, the Russian Orthodox Church – which is serving in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus- described it as an act of intimidation, pointing out that for a long time it has been a target chosen by the godless authorities for destruction.
Russian Orthodox Church’s spokesperson Vladimir Legoyda conveyed the Church’s call on all caring people to do everything they can to prevent the persecution and make sure that the ancient shrine remains a place of prayer for peace, pointing out that the Russian Orthodox Church prays for its fellow believers in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, who became victims of lawlessness.
This was the second cringe-worth move of Kyiv in the last two days, following the accusations from Moscow that Ukrainian soldiers have killed in cold blood unarmed Russian POWs as they were surrendering.
A series of videos that surfaced on social media last week has sparked a debate over the killing of Russian soldiers earlier this month, prompting questions over whether Ukrainian servicemen committed war crimes or acted in self-defense.
The videos that show the grisly before-and-after scenes of the encounter were first circulated by Ukrainian media channels to show the Kyiv forces’ military prowess.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Washington’s envoy for war crimes Beth Van Schaack said that the US was monitoring allegations of Kyiv executing Russian POWs, stressing that the laws of war apply to all parties equally and that both the aggressor state and the defender state will face the consequences if they don’t abide by international law.
The US ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, however, kind of downplayed the Ukrainian acts saying that the scale of criminality the Russian forces exhibited was enormous compared to the allegations against Ukrainian forces,
She also pointed out that the two sides responded differently when allegations of atrocities surface with Moscow always responding to it with denial, propaganda, and disinformation whereas Kyiv officials are dealing with allegations more responsibly, generally acknowledging abuses, denouncing them, and pledging to investigate them.