Kyiv accuses Orthodox Church leader of justifying Russia’s invasion

Ukrainian investigators are searching the home of Metropolitan Pavel Lebed, an Orthodox Church leader they accused of justifying Russia̵7;s invasion of Ukraine and inciting inter-religious hatred.

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Confirmed On Saturday, Pavel, who runs Ukraine’s most important monastery, the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, is suspected of violating the country’s criminal code.

The SBU said, “Pavel in his public speeches repeatedly insulted the religious feelings of the Ukrainian people, denigrated the views of believers of other denominations, and tried to create hostile feelings towards them.” According to the service, he also made “statements justifying or denying the actions of the aggressor country”.

“Today, the enemy is trying to use the atmosphere of the church to promote its propaganda and divide Ukrainian society,” said Vasyl Malyuk, head of the SBU.

Pavel’s branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was previously under the control of the Moscow clergy, but announced Its independence in May last year.

But Kiev argues that the church needs to be closed because of its pre-war ties to Moscow and is trying to evict Pavel and his fellow worshipers from their monastery.

Pavel has denied the allegations, arguing that Kiev has no legal grounds for the eviction, according to bbc, During a court hearing on Saturday, he said he had “never been on the side of aggression,” describing his current status as “house arrest.”

The SBU has arrested dozens of clerics, accusing them of collaborating with Russia. Last year, Seva raided the Lavra Monastery and other buildings belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Church denies that there is evidence to support the allegations.