Zelenskyy Is Not Twisting the War, Turning It into a Religious One, but Defending Ukraine from Russian Propaganda in the Churches
The Russian Orthodox Church and its leadership actively support Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. Ukraine’s Secret Service has registered cases where the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate was involved in justifying Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and collaboration with Russian troops in occupied territories.
The Russian Orthodox Church and its leadership actively support Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. Ukraine’s Secret Service has registered cases where the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate was involved in justifying Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and collaboration with Russian troops in occupied territories. The aim of the new law is to prevent Russia from installing its networks in Ukraine through the church that the Security Services of Ukraine already warned about. Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are signing petitions to take over the property of Moscow Patriarchate, as is the case in the video where confrontation took place and a priest attacked an Ukrainian soldier
We are fact-checking a post published on the social media Facebook (screenshot here) that says:
The goal of Zelenskyy’s government is not only to discontinue the spiritual bond between the Russian and Ukrainian people, but to turn the war into its worst form – religious.
Why is the West supporting this disgusting policy of Ukraine?
The video shared in the post shows a verbal and physical duel when a priest in an Orthodox church is physically attacking and knocks out a man dressed in military pants, throwing him out of the church.
The media reported about the incident when a priest attacked a soldier fighting on the Ukrainian side. According to Kyiv Independent, a temple in the city of Khmelnytsky controlled by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate (close to Russia), held its first service in Ukrainian language, after the priest had attacked an Ukrainian soldier inside the temple.
Once the video of the incident was disseminated, hundreds of Ukrainians protested outside the Church demanding religious leaders of Moscow Patriarchate to leave the temple. Local residents organized a meeting and collected signatures for transferring the property of the Church to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. A Ukrainian soldier named Danilo said to Hromadske Media that re-registration of Church property is about to be done. The video posted by the Counsellor of Khmelnytskyi Council, Viktor Burlik, shows a man in a uniform being hit by a priest while other people join in to push him to the wall. The soldier complains about Moscow Patriarchate effectively operating as an Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church. At one point he says that he cannot breathe. Burlik identifies the soldier as Artur Ananiev, volunteer with a head injury sustained in a battle, reports Kyiv Independent.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine was awarded autocephaly by Constantinople in January 2019. Recently, tensions surfaced between the two Churches after Kyiv ordered religious leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate to leave the premises of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Security Services of Ukraine officially charged Metropolitan Pavlo Lebid for supporting the war in Ukraine. For a long time Ukraine has been accusing representatives of Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine for serving as an extension of Kremlin’s propaganda.
DS News also reported that believers from that specific church collected signatures to transfer to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
While searching several churches linked to Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Security Services found propaganda material supporting Russia.
The statement given by Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) for CNN, notes that it is not illegal to store Russian propaganda, but it is to distribute it.
If such literature is in the library of the diocese or on the shelves of a church shop, it is obvious that it is intended for mass distribution,” reads the statement of the Ukrainian Security Service for CNN.
The raids of the churches in Ukraine that are close to Moscow are strictly a national security issue, not a matter of religion.
Professor Viktor Yelenskyi for CNN said that for more than 30 years, the leadership of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate has been “poisoning people with the ideas of the Russian world”. He defended SBU’s raids, comparing them to the crackdown on Islamic extremism after 9/11.
The Centre for Strategic Communications under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine found out that the Ukrainian Church – Moscow Patriarchate was spreading Russian propaganda, that enemy service activities were covered up and that Russian agents were recruited.
Namely, the Ukrainian government, as reported by Reuters in December 2022, was drafting a new law that would ban churches affiliated to Russia, in order to prevent Moscow from weakening Ukraine from within.
In a move condemned in Moscow, Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council told the government to draft the law following a series of raids on parishes that Kyiv says could be taking orders from Moscow as Russia wages war on Ukraine, reported Reuters.
The law provides for religious organizations with “management centres” in Russia to change their names and explicitly identify their links to Moscow. The law prohibits these organizations to send their members to the Ukrainian Army. This law was challenged before the Ukrainian Constitutional Court in December 2022. The court declared it constitutional which opened the door for enforced renaming.
Pressured by several cases of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church collaborating with the Russian Army, Zelenskyy ordered the laws to be adopted by autumn 2022.
From October to December 2022, the Secret Service of Ukraine conducted several searches of the properties of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the homes of the clergy across the country and found Russian propaganda, proof that some of the priests had Russian citizenship.
Finally, in December 2022, based on the decision of the National Security Council, Zelenskyy requested the Cabinet of Ministers to draft a law that would ban religious organizations linked to Moscow, noting that the law must be in compliance with Ukraine’s obligations to the Council of Europe.
The Russian Orthodox Church and its leadership actively support Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. The Secret Service of Ukraine registered cases where the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is involved in justifying Russian aggression against Ukraine and collaboration with Russian troops in the occupied territories.
In December 2022, the priest from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Andriy Pavlenko was convicted by the Ukrainian Court of spying for Russia.
At the end of 2022, Zelenskyy called upon the Ukrainian Members of Parliament to find a way
to prevent the operation of the Orthodox Church under direct control of Moscow in Ukraine.
Zelenskyy said that a law was necessary to prevent the operations of religious organizations in Ukraine linked to centres of influence in the Russian Federation, referring to the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
After that, Dmitriy Medvedev called Zelenskyy an enemy of Christ and the Orthodox faith. This, however, is not logical, because according to the Pew Research Center from Washington, 78 percent of the Ukrainians identify themselves as Orthodox.
They are denied the opportunity to go to an Orthodox Church, but association with Moscow will no longer be allowed.
Due to all the above noted facts checked, we assess this post as untrue. It is not true that Zelenskyy is closing down churches, and that he is turning the war into a religious one. Zelenskyy did not start the war in Ukraine, Putin did, thereby shattering the spiritual bond between the Russian and the Ukrainian people. Subsequently, the Ukrainians are now signing petitions for taking over property of the Moscow Patriarchate – as is the case with the church with the confrontation presented on the video where a priest attacked an Ukrainian soldier. As mentioned previously, the aim of the new law is to prevent Russia from installing its own networks in Ukraine through the church that the Security Services of Ukraine already warned about.
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