The Ukrainian security service said it raided a historic Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv on Tuesday as part of an effort to counter suspected “subversive activities of [the] Russian special services” in the country.
The raid on the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was aimed at “preventing the use of the Lavra as a cell of the ‘Russian world’” and the “use of Ukrainian Orthodox Church premises for hiding sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, storing weapons, etc,” the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said in a statement.
The Lavra is home to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – a branch of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine that has been traditionally loyal to Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian church. Kirill is a close ally of Vladimir Putin and a supporter of his war on Ukraine. In May, the UOC cut ties with Moscow and declared “full independence.”
The Kremlin condemned the raid and said it was another example of Ukraine’s hostility to Russian Orthodoxy.
“The Ukrainian side has long been at war with the Russian Orthodox Church,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.
“I would say this can be seen as another link in the chain of hostilities against Russian Orthodoxy.”
The Russian Orthodox Church also responded to the raid, describing it as an “act of intimidation.”
“The Russian Orthodox Church, serving in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, has already been in the role of a target chosen by the godless authorities for destruction,” Vladimir Legoyda, a spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church, said on Telegram.
“We pray for fellow believers in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, who become victims of lawlessness, and we call on all caring people to do everything possible so that the persecution stops, and the ancient shrine remains a place of prayer for peace.”
The Lavra was founded in the 11th century. As well as being a place of pilgrimage, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It it also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyiv.