Ukraine ready to ban country’s largest Christian church – parliament speaker — RT Russia & Former Soviet Union

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Legislation outlawing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) over alleged links to Russia should apparently be passed in early 2024

A bill that would ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the largest Christian church in the country, could be passed in early 2024, the speaker of the parliament in Kiev, Ruslan Stefanchuk, has said.

Ukrainian authorities have long accused the UOC of having ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, despite the religious organization condemning Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and announcing its autonomy from Moscow shortly after the escalation of the conflict in February 2022.

When asked about the legislation during a TV appearance on Rada TV on Tuesday, Stefanchuk said that “the committee must make the necessary decisions, carry out consultations, and accept it as a proposal in the second reading.”

“I hope that this issue might be settled in the beginning of the next year,” the speaker stressed.

The legislation, which had been prepared on the order of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, passed its first reading in the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, in October. The bill would allow authorities to ban the UOC if an expert review panel confirms its connections with Russia. It garnered the support of 267 out of 450 MPs.

The Church, which has millions of followers across Ukraine, condemned the legislation, saying that it goes against the Ukrainian Constitution and violates religious freedom.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has also called upon religious leaders and international organizations to intervene to stop “mass violations of religious rights of the followers of the UOC.” The actions of Ukrainian authorities were “on par with the most sinister God-fighting regimes of the past,” he insisted.

The administration of President Zelensky supports the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which had been created by Ukrainian authorities shortly after the western-backed coup in 2014 that installed a pro-Western government. The emergence of the OCU, considered non-canonical by the Russian Orthodox Church, prompted years of religious tensions in the country.

Since the start of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, Ukrainian authorities and activists have been seizing the UOC’s places of worship and handing them over to the government-backed OCU. For instance, the UOC’s monks were evicted from the country’s holiest Orthodox site, the Kiev Pechersk Lavra.

According to Tass news agency, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has launched 65 criminal cases against UOC priests; 17 clerics have faced sanctions, and 19 of them were stripped of their Ukrainian citizenship.

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