The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council is suggesting a ban on all Russian-affiliated religious groups in the interest of “spiritual independence,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
According to Zelensky’s nightly address Thursday, the council has instructed the Ukraine government to “draft [a] law on making it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine.” Most notably, the law would ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which is affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church.
“Unfortunately, even Russian terror and full-scale war did not convince some figures that it is worth overcoming the temptation of evil,” Zelensky said, referring to the meeting with national security officials. “Well, we have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within.”
The proposed ban would be submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, to be reviewed.
Earlier in the day, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) reported it had found “a large number of propaganda materials” after conducting a search at a Moscow Patriarchate monastery in the Zakarpattia region. According to a report from The Kyiv Independent, the SBU has searched multiple branches of the Russian-affiliated church in the past week.
According to a Facebook post from SBU, the items recovered on Thursday included “books of xenophobic content with offensive fabrications about other nationalities and religions.”
“The found brochures deny Ukraine’s right to independence, and stress that Russia, Ukraine and Belarus ‘cannot be divided,’” read the report.
The SBU also reportedly found printouts of “pro-Russian songs that glorified the ‘Russian land’ and called for ‘the awakening of the mother-Russia.’” All of the materials are being transferred to “relevant expert research,” the report said.
The Kyiv Independent also reported that a large number of Russian Orthodox parishes have “switched” to align with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. The outlet said that a record number of 229 parishes left Russia’s church in the month of May alone.
Zelensky addressed his nation on the 31st anniversary of Ukraine voting for independence from the Soviet Union. The 1991 referendum, the president said, “was an honest referendum, and that is why it was recognized by the world.”
“I would like to emphasize: In 1991, our state embarked on the legal and democratic path,” Zelensky said. “We will continue this path. Only legal steps. Balanced decisions. And national interests.”
Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Orthodox Church for comment.
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