(Reuters) – Ukraine has imposed sanctions on 10 senior clergy linked to a pro-Moscow church on the grounds that they agreed to work with the Russian occupation authorities or justified invading Moscow, the security services said on Saturday.
The announcement is the latest in a series of steps against the Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church historically linked to Moscow. The Orthodox Church in Russia itself supports the war.
And the security services said, in a statement, that the ten clerics had differently agreed to cooperate with the occupation authorities, promoted pro-Russian narratives, and justified Russian military aggression in Ukraine.
Most of the clergy – all members of or closely associated with the church – live in Russian-controlled areas or are abroad, the service said.
“The Security Service of Ukraine continues to carry out comprehensive work on the protection of the Ukrainian state and will continue to expose people who threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the statement said.
The Ukrainian branch officially cut ties with the Russian Orthodox Church last May, but many Ukrainians remain unreliable, accusing them of secret collaboration with Russia.
The sanctions, which will last for five years, will freeze the assets of those on the list, prevent them from exporting capital from Ukraine, and prevent them from owning land.
The security services have also carried out several raids on parishes and buildings associated with the church, which it says has always followed Ukrainian laws.
Orthodox Christians make up the majority of Ukraine’s 43 million people. Since the collapse of Soviet rule, competition has been fierce between the Church associated with Moscow and the Autonomous Church of Ukraine which was proclaimed soon after independence.
(Reporting by David Leungren). Editing by Sandra Mahler
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