Ukraine’s SBU security service and police raided a 1,000-year-old Orthodox Christian monastery in Kyiv early on Tuesday as part of operations to counter suspected “subversive activities by Russian special services,” the SBU said.
The sprawling Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex that was raided is a Ukrainian cultural treasure and the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church known as the Moscow Patriarchate.
“These measures are being taken ... as part of the systemic work of the SBU to counter the destructive activities of Russian special services in Ukraine,” the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said in a statement.
It said the search was aimed at preventing the use of the cave monastery as “the center of the Russian world” and carried out to look into suspicions “about the use of the premises ... for sheltering sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, weapons storage.”
The SBU did not say what the result of the raid was. The Moscow Patriarchate did not immediately comment.
In May, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate ended its ties with the Russian church over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and condemned the support of Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s church, for what Moscow calls its “special military operation.”
Ukraine says the full-scale invasion began an unprovoked war of aggression.
A 2020 survey by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Centre found that 34 percent of Ukrainians identified as members of the main Orthodox Church of Ukraine, while 14 percent were members of Ukraine’s Moscow Patriarchate Church.
In 2019, Ukraine was given permission by the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide to form a church independent of Moscow, largely ending centuries of religious ties between the two countries.