Members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Monastery refused entry to representatives of the government commission.
Scuffles broke out outside a monastery in Kiev on Thursday after a Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church that the government says has ties to Russia defied the eviction order.
Tensions have been high over the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the 980-year-old Kiev-Pechersk Lavra since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
Kiev has accused UBC of maintaining ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, which supported Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The University of British Columbia said it cut all ties with the Russian Church in May 2022.
Hours after a midnight deadline to leave the monastery expired Wednesday, members of the University of British Columbia refused entry to representatives of a government committee who wanted to inspect buildings in the sprawling, gold-domed monastery complex.
Reuters news agency reported shortly afterwards that clashes had broken out. No one is hurt.
Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko later condemned the “brutal” treatment of the committee members. He said in a statement that the government had lodged a complaint with the police and that efforts to search the premises would continue on Friday.
The UOC is the second largest church in Ukraine, although most Ukrainian Orthodox believers belong to a separate branch of the faith, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was formed four years ago by uniting branches independent of Moscow’s authority.
Russia has condemned Kiev’s bid against the University of Oklahoma as an insult and a crime.
“Such measures are increasingly plunging Ukraine into the Middle Ages in the worst sense of the word,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
The deputy head of a Ukrainian government body responsible for the monastery said earlier this month that a government committee had been set up to make decisions on issues related to the lease agreement for the monastery.
The government alleged that the monks breached their lease by making alterations to the historic site and other technical infractions. The University of British Columbia monks have disputed any abuses, calling the allegations an alibi.
The Ukrainian government has been cracking down on the University of Oklahoma over its historical ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader, Patriarch Kirill, supported Russian President Vladimir Putin in invading Ukraine.
UBC insisted it was pro-Ukrainian, denounced the Russian invasion and declared independence from Moscow.
But Ukrainian security agencies alleged that some in the Ukrainian Church maintained close ties with Moscow.
They raided many church holy places and later published photographs of rubles, Russian passports, and leaflets with letters from the Patriarch of Moscow as evidence that some church officials were pro-Russian.
Many of Ukraine’s Orthodox communities have severed ties with the University of Oklahoma, once one of the main sources of Russian influence in Ukraine.
They gradually moved to the rival Orthodox Church of Ukraine after it received recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who is considered the foremost among the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, but lacks the universal power of the Pope.
The Moscow and most other Orthodox patriarchs refused to accept this classification, which formalized the schism with the Russian Church.
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