Members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra refused entry to representatives of the government committee.
A brawl erupted outside a Kiev monastery on Thursday after the Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church, which the government claims has ties to Russia, ignored an eviction order.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, tensions have mounted over the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) in the 980-year-old Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.
Kiev accuses the UOC of maintaining ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which has supported Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The UOC said it cut all ties with the Russian Church in May 2022.
Hours after the deadline to leave the monastery at midnight on Wednesday passed, members of the UOC denied entry to representatives of a government commission that wanted to inspect the buildings of the gilded-domed monastery’s sprawling complex. .
Shortly thereafter, a brawl broke out, Reuters reported. No one was injured.
Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko later condemned the “brutal” treatment of commission members. In his statement, he said the government had lodged a complaint with the police and inspections of the building would continue on Friday.
The UOC is the second largest church in Ukraine, but most Ukrainian Orthodox believers belong to a separate branch, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, formed four years ago by consolidating branches independent of the Moscow authorities. increase.
Russia condemned Kiev’s pressure on the UOC as outrage and crime.
“Such actions are dragging Ukraine more and more into the Middle Ages in the worst sense,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on the Telegram app.
Earlier this month, the deputy head of the Ukrainian State Agency in charge of monasteries said a government commission was being set up to make decisions on issues related to the UOC’s leases on monasteries.
The government alleged that the monks violated their tenancy agreements by altering historic sites and committing other technical violations. The UOC friars challenged all violations on the pretext of allegations.
The Ukrainian government has cracked down on the UOC over its historical ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. Its leader, Patriarch Kirill, has backed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UOC has claimed allegiance to Ukraine, condemned Russia’s aggression, and declared independence from Moscow.
However, Ukrainian security services claim that some members of the Ukrainian Church maintain close ties with Moscow.
They raided numerous holy sites of the church, and then took pictures of the ruble, Russian passports, and a leaflet with a message from the Moscow Patriarch as proof that some church officials were loyal to Russia. Posted.
Many Orthodox communities in Ukraine have severed ties with the UOC, once one of the main sources of Russian influence in Ukraine.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, considered the foremost equality among the Eastern Orthodox leaders, is considered to lack the universal power of the Pope. After being recognized by the bishop, they gradually transitioned to the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Patriarchs of Moscow and most other Orthodox churches have refused to accept that designation, which formalizes a schism with the Russian Church.