Kyiv police open case after Ministry of Culture denied access to Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra

3 April, 07:00 PM
Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Photo:REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko)

Law enforcement officers in Kyiv have opened criminal proceedings against priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine (ROC-U), after a commission from the Ministry of Culture was denied access to the territory of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, Ukrainian newswire Interfax-Ukraine reported on April 3.

The charges against the priests fall under Article 179 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (illegal detention, desecration, or destruction of religious shrines), law enforcement representatives stated.

The Ministry promised to file a lawsuit to remove barriers to the use of the property.

ROC-U Lavra eviction update

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The ROC-U was supposed to vacate the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery on March 29, after its 2013 lease agreement was terminated by the National Kyiv-Pechersk Historic-Cultural Preserve — a state entity. The termination reversed a decision made by the government of then-president Viktor Yanuvkoych, who is wanted for high treason, which leased out the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra to the ROC-U in perpetuity.

However, ROC-U priests did not vacate the territory of the monastery upon the lease’s termination, continue to hold services at the site.

They have twice refused to admit the Culture Ministry's property transfer commission to the site.

ROC-U leadership, led by Lavra Abbot Petro Lebid (Metropolitan Pavlo), accused Ukrainian authorities of issuing an "ultimatum." They stated that the eviction notice is illegal, and have challenged it in court — though the court ruled that the ROC-U does not have the right to remain on the property during the duration of the appeal.

ROC-U priests have also been spotted stealing relics from the property, with one priest saying, in a comment to media, that they plan to take "everything but the relics" from the Lower Lavra.

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