Searches in UOC: what was sought out, found, and what will happen next

04 December 2022 19:35
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The main searches took place in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Photo: UOJ The main searches took place in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. Photo: UOJ

The SBU with the police conducted searches in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and other shrines and published a report. What is it and how can it be used against the UOC?

On November 22, 2022, the SBU, together with the National Police and the National Guard, conducted searches in 350 church premises of the UOC. The actions took place in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the Zverynetsky Monastery in Kyiv, the administration and monasteries of the Sarny diocese. These are the first searches in the UOC of this magnitude. Why were they held and what consequences can the Church expect?

How did it go?

Shortly after the SBU and other law enforcement officers entered the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra on the morning of November 22, 2022, a message appeared in which the SBU outlined the goals of these activities.

The report stated that the SBU, the National Police and the National Guard were carrying out counterintelligence activities there “as part of the SBU’s systemic work to counter the subversive activities of the Russian special services in Ukraine.” In doing so, the following goals were identified:

  • preventing the Lavra from being used as a cell of the “Russian world”;
  • verification of data on the use of the premises of the UOC for harboring sabotage and reconnaissance groups, foreign citizens, storing weapons, etc.

In a separate line, it was indicated that in its actions, the SBU “observes the principle of impartiality in the activities of any religious denomination and respects the right of every citizen to freedom of opinion and religion, as defined by the Constitution of Ukraine.” This is good news, if this is the case in reality.

The next day, Metropolitan Clement (Vecheria), Chairman of the Synodal information and Education Department, spoke about the course of these events. But first, he clarified the legal status of these events. According to him, these were not searches, which are usually carried out in the framework of criminal cases, but counterintelligence measures. At the same time, Vladyka drew attention to the fact that the SBU conducts such actions quite regularly in relation to various organizations, about which it publishes messages and reports on its official website.

As for the very actions of the security forces in the Lavra, Metropolitan Clement noted the following: “The actions of the law enforcement agencies were correct and did not cause any comments from the monks and believing visitors of the Lavra.” He said the same with regard to other monasteries of the UOC, in which checks were carried out: “As far as I know, in other areas, the SBU events on the territory of the monasteries were just as calm and constructive. There were no comments or accusations against representatives of religious organizations from power structures.”

Nun Savvatia of the Koretsky monastery, where counterintelligence activities also took place, spoke about them in more detail.

According to her, representatives of the SBU "talked to us, then checked our phones, our contacts, who we are in touch with, whether we have any connections." That is, everything was also correct and within the framework of the law. “No illegal connections were found with us. Then they inspected our buildings, which they were particularly interested in. They checked it all, but found nothing. We are not engaged in illegal activities, we were born in Ukraine, we live in Ukraine and we want to die in Ukraine. We pray for peace. We are all for Ukraine!” mother said.

In the Archangel-Michael Zverynetsky Monastery in Kyiv, everything was also decent. The SBU officers did not even interrupt the service, but only checked the documents of the monks and parishioners. In total, the SBU "carefully" (!) checked 350 church premises and 850 citizens!

What did they find?

The next day after these events, the SBU published a report on their results.

Judging by the photo, they found the following:

  • cash in the amount of UAH 2 million, USD 100 thousand and “several thousand rubles”;
  • 2 copies of the book of St. Seraphim (Sobolev) "Russian Ideology";
  • three issues of the Russky Vestnik newspaper dated 2020;
  • Russian House magazine for 2014;
  • a stack of Easter greetings from Patriarch Kirill;
  • a stack of black-and-white leaflets with a photograph of the Patriarch and a text compiled from some of his sermons and another paragraph of unknown origin.

Money

If you divide the found amount by 850 people who have been verified, it is about 6.5 thousand hryvnias for each. But seriously, these amounts cannot be called large, given the scope of the searches and the scale of the UOC. Not so long ago, the head of the State Ethnopolitics, Olena Bohdan, said that only the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra alone pays millions of hryvnias for communal services every month. Moreover, if we recall the repair and construction of churches, the purchase of food, salaries to employees, and so on, then the found 2 million hryvnias and 100 thousand dollars for 350 verified objects are quite a bit.

Monasteries, like the entire Church as a whole, live on donations from parishioners. These donations may vary in amount and form. Here are the labor pennies of the poor (in this regard one cannot but recall the mite of the widow, who, according to the Lord, contributed the most), and large sums from wealthy donors. It’s noteworthy that both the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra and other monasteries, as well as diocesan administrations and individual parishes, carry out extensive charitable activities, especially today, in times of war. The UOC sends food, warm clothes, and vehicles to the front, and participates in fundraising for other equipment needed by our soldiers. The UOC provides extensive support to the civilian population affected by hostilities. It can be assumed that these expenses are an order of magnitude higher than the amounts discovered by the SBU. Well, the photo of three one-thousandth Russian banknotes is particularly "touching".

Literature

The message on the SBU telegram channel contains the following wording: “Pro-Russian literature has been discovered, which is used during training in the seminary and parochial schools, including for the ‘Russian world’ propaganda."

However, the photographs presented contradict this statement, because if they were really used in the educational process or for propaganda, then they would not have been found in single copies.

Where are the stacks of such newspapers, magazines and brochures? There is nothing of this, which means that such literature was presumably used for personal reasons.

Anyway, there are stacks in the SBU photo: these are the Easter messages of Patriarch Kirill and leaflets with his photograph. If the messages are unlikely to be qualified as propaganda of the "Russian world", then the leaflets are likely to be.

They were "found" in the attic of the Koretsky nunnery and appeared there by no means by chance. Nun Savvatia, a resident of the monastery, said: “Curiously, these leaflets were found in a damp, unheated attic. Everything that is kept there – books or paper – immediately becomes damp, covered with fungus, but these leaflets were brand new and dry,” said the nun and added, “We told the SBU officers that these leaflets were not ours, we had no idea how did they appeared there."

Consequently, this is a clear provocation, intended to discredit the UOC. This is indicated by the compiled nature of the leaflet text itself. The first paragraph is taken from the sermon of the Patriarch dated February 24, 2022, the second – from the sermon dated April 19, 2014. And the third paragraph with the text "Ukraine is an organic part of Rus', let's restore historical justice" is someone's "creative" part. It is very doubtful that someone in the shrine decided to write such stuff instead of the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. That is, someone made these leaflets and brought them to the monastery during searches. Who? We hope that the SBU will figure out who wrote them, who made them, and who threw them into the shrine.

Who was found

Most of the SBU's report on the results of counterintelligence activities is devoted to the fact that some dubious “citizens of the Russian Federation” were found in the Lavra and other places. As already mentioned, the SBU checked 850 people, while it was emphasized that "more than 50 people underwent in-depth counterintelligence interviews, including using a polygraph (lie detector – Ed.)." It is said that on the territory of the inspected objects there were "not only citizens of Ukraine, but also foreigners, in particular citizens of the Russian Federation."

What is criminal here? If these persons are in Ukraine legally, then they have the right to visit the Lavra and any other place. And if they are illegal in Ukraine, then why is this not mentioned in the SBU report?

Another quote from the SBU report: “Some of them, during the check, provided passports and military IDs of the USSR, did not have original documents at all, but only their copies, or had passports of Ukrainian citizens with signs of forgery or damage.” Any lawyer will say that all this is the basis for at least delaying such persons to determine their identity, and “signs of a forged passport” are generally grounds for initiating a criminal case under the relevant article of the criminal code. However, the SBU report does not say anything of the kind.

A certain “32-year-old citizen of Ukraine”, who “may be” involved in illegal activities, deserved special attention in the message. It is said that he is a trustee of the owner of the ANTVAN GROUP pro-Russian company, O. Orlov. But again, no indication that this "32-year-old citizen" was detained or charged or suspected.

Who and what was not found

In fact, they did not find anything discrediting. This fact made some bloggers urgently "creative", and they said, "As a result of searches, God was not found in the Lavra."

That is, 350 premises were inspected, 850 people were interviewed, but no sabotage and reconnaissance groups, or weapons, or anything like that were found. No one was suspected. It has already been said above that the brochures found cannot be proof of the "Russian world" propaganda. What do we thus have in the dry residue? After all, many ill-wishers of the UOC had huge expectations in light of all these counterintelligence activities.

In the evening of November 23, 2022, a statement by O. Danylov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine appeared that the SBU was checking suspicions about the presence of persons working for Russia in the Lavra: “Certain documents were found there. And certain citizens were found there… most likely citizens of the Russian Federation. And now we are trying to find out what they are doing there and how they ended up there.”

Apparently, the head of the National Security and Defense Council himself is not sure of anything. What do the words "most likely citizens of the Russian Federation" mean? If these are Russian citizens, then there must be appropriate evidence. If they are in Ukraine illegally, then appropriate charges should have been brought in this regard. Otherwise, there is nothing to talk about.

Conclusions

  • The actions of the SBU and other law enforcement agencies participating in the events indicate that they performed their duties in good faith and within the framework of the law. Only the episode with leaflets in the Koretsky Monastery remained incomprehensible, but I want to believe that the perpetrators will be found.
  • Law enforcers did not find any saboteurs, weapons, or any propaganda materials.

Therefore, it would be logical for law enforcement officers to make a statement to the media with a clear message that the searches did not bring any “criminal” results. And by and large – to call on some representatives of the Ukrainian society to stop hate speech toward the UOC. Here is what Metropolitan Clement said about this: “It is no secret that today some politicians or individuals who have lost their ratings and have appropriated the title of ‘public activist’ unfoundedly accuse our Church of absolutely absurd things. The fact that yesterday’s events confirmed the absence of weapons or militants in the monastery should entail a public apology from those who openly and unfoundedly stated this in the media.”

But we see no apologies. Many media outlets publish a SBU report with photographs of the events carried out as evidence of a certain “guilt” of the UOC. The townsfolk are told that a copy of the Russky Vestnik newspaper is already a crime of great gravity and proof of work for the enemy’s special services. This also includes the time-synchronous submission to the Verkhovna Rada of a bill on the ban on the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church in the territory of Ukraine, authored by Poroshenko's people's MP Nikolai Kniazhytsky. Reporting this, the telegram channel of the European Solidarity party claims, “The activities of Orthodox religious organizations in Ukraine should be carried out taking into account the Patriarchal and Synodal Tomos granted to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian state,” and “the liberation of Ukraine from the ROC is another step towards independent Ukraine.” What is this if not a clear violation of the constitutional principle of the separation of the Church from the state and a violation of the rights of citizens to freedom of conscience and worldview?!

What is to be expected next can be judged by how quickly this bill will be promoted in the Verkhovna Rada and whether "counterintelligence activities" will continue in other monasteries and diocesan administrations. Perhaps it would be right to initiate such actions on the part of the UOC itself.

We have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. The UOC has never betrayed its people and never taken the side of the enemy. She fulfills Her mission on earth, commanded to Her by the Lord Jesus Christ. Any checks can only confirm this. Again, if they are conducted in accordance with the law and without any prejudice.

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