During the court hearing in kyiv, Metropolitan Pavel rejected the Security Service’s claim that he condoned the invasion of Russia.
Ukrainian security services have notified a senior Orthodox priest who is suspected of justifying Russia’s aggression amid a bitter dispute over a famous Orthodox monastery.
Metropolitan Pavel, abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, Ukraine’s most revered Orthodox site, was called in for questioning on Saturday.
During a court hearing in the Ukrainian capital, the metropolitan strongly rejected the claim by the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, that it condoned Russia’s invasion. Pavel described the accusations against him as politically driven.
SBU agents raided his residence. Prosecutors asked the court to place him under house arrest pending the investigation.
The development came three days after the expiration of a deadline for an eviction order from Ukrainian authorities for Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) monks living in a part of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery. The priest has vigorously resisted the authorities’ order to vacate the compound.
The UOC has been accused of having links with Russia. The dispute over the property, also known as Monasterio de las Cuevas, is part of a larger religious conflict that has run parallel to the war.
The Ukrainian government has cracked down on the UOC because of its historical links to the Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader, Patriarch Kirill, has supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UOC has insisted on its loyalty to Ukraine and has denounced the Russian invasion from the outset. The church declared its independence from Moscow.
But Ukrainian security agencies have claimed that some at the UOC have maintained close ties to Moscow. They have raided numerous church holy places and then released photos of rubles, Russian passports and booklets with messages from the Patriarch of Moscow as proof that some church officials have been loyal to Russia.
The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery is owned by the Ukrainian government, and the agency that oversees it notified the monks that it was terminating the lease and that they had until Wednesday to vacate the property.
Metropolitan Pavel told parishioners on Wednesday that the monks would not leave pending the outcome of a lawsuit the UOC filed in a Kiev court to stop the eviction.
The government has claimed that the monks violated their lease by making alterations to the historic site and other technical breaches. The monks rejected the claim as a pretext.
Many Ukrainian Orthodox communities have cut their ties with the UOC and have gone over to the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which more than four years ago received recognition from the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Bartholomew I is considered the first among equals among the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox churches. Patriarch Kirill and most other Orthodox patriarchs have refused to accept his decision to authorize the Second Ukrainian Church.
Russia ‘increases ammunition production’
As Ukraine prepares for a counter-offensive expected in the coming months, Russian forces have continued to push to capture the town of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Donbas region has been the focus of a fierce battle that has raged for eight months in eastern Ukraine.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a visit to the military headquarters overseeing action in Ukraine on Saturday that Russia’s defense industries have increased munitions production “several times.” Russia’s government previously acknowledged ammunition shortages.
The UK Defense Ministry said in its latest analysis on Saturday that the Russian offensive personally supervised by General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Army’s General Staff, has failed. Putin put Gerasimov in charge of overseeing what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.
“Gerasimov’s tenure has been characterized by an effort to launch a general winter offensive with the aim of extending Russian control over the entire Donbas region,” the British ministry said on Twitter. “Eighty days later, it is becoming increasingly evident that this project has failed.”
As evidence, the ministry said that “in various axes along the Donbas front, Russian forces have made only marginal gains at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties.”
With the losses, the Russian military was “largely wasting its temporary advantage in personnel” from a partial mobilization of 300,000 reservists that Putin ordered in the fall, according to the UK analysis.
He noted that Gerasimov, who has been in his post for 10 years, “is pushing the limits of how far Russia’s political leadership will tolerate failure.”