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Ukraine starts probe into Russian Patriarch Kirill over blessing Ukraine war

The Orthodox leader has repeatedly appeared on Russian state TV channels, backing the Kremlin’s invasion and urging believers to unite in the war against Ukraine
Kirill blesses war Russian World
On 13 March 2022, Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill presented an icon to Russian Army General Viktor Zolotov for it to be hosted in the Russian National Guard’s main church. Zolotov thanked the hierarch and informed him that the National Guard troops are fighting along other regiments in Russia’s war against Ukraine, which Putin called an “operation” to “denazify Ukraine”: “I want to say that yes, not everything is going as fast as we would like, but it’s only because the Nazis are hiding behind civilians, behind the elderly, women, children, arranging firing positions in kindergartens, schools, homes. but we are moving towards the goal step by step and victory will be ours, and this icon will protect the Russian army and accelerate our victory,” Zolotov said. Photo: KP.ru
Ukraine starts probe into Russian Patriarch Kirill over blessing Ukraine war

On Saturday, November 4, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) declared that Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, has been formally accused of committing criminal offenses by blessing Russian soldiers to kill Ukrainians.

According to the SBU press service, the SBU and Office of the Prosecutor General have gathered evidence against Kirill Gundyaev, known as Patriarch Kirill, for aiding Russia’s armed aggression and denying Russia’s war crimes.

The investigation found that the Moscow patriarch is part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and was one of the first public supporters of the full-scale war against Ukraine. To spread propaganda, Kirill uses religious communities of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine.

Additionally, Gundyaev regularly promotes Kremlin narratives in online sermons and video comments, the SBU says. In March 2022, the Russian Orthodox Church website published an “article” about a liturgy where Kirill blessed the commander of Russia’s National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, for the war against Ukraine.

In September 2022, Patriarch Kirill de-facto blessed Russian soldiers to die in Ukraine, promising them forgiveness of sins. This act endorses religious terrorism, according to religious scholar Cyril Hovorun.

Getting killed in Ukraine washes away all sins, Russian patriarch tells invading army

At the end of February 2023, an official Russian Orthodox Church YouTube video showed Kirill justifying the occupation of eastern Ukraine. Kirill has also repeatedly appeared on Russian state TV channels, backing the Kremlin’s aggressive policies and urging believers to unite in the war against Ukraine.

An SBU expert analysis confirmed Kirill’s criminal activities. Based on the evidence, he has been informed of suspicion under these articles:

  • Violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity (Article 110);
  • Justifying Russia’s aggression against Ukraine (Article 436-2);
  • Planning, preparing, unleashing, and waging an aggressive war (Articles 27 and 437).

The “Russian world,” Russian Orthodox Church, and Russia’s war against Ukraine

The “Russian World” ideology asserts that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus constitute one spiritual space united by Russian Orthodox Christianity. Theological in its nature, it pits “Holy Russia” against the “godless West” and is the driving force of Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“What the proponents of the Russian world call the Russian civilization is believed to be exceptional, with a special mission from God — to save the world from itself. They see their mission as cosmic and themselves as the vehicle of the divine providence in making the world a better place,” explains Cyril Hovorun.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) is considered to have promoted this ideology in Ukraine, working to tie Ukrainians to Russia’s cultural and civilizational space.

Ukraine has recently taken steps to outlaw any religious organizations with their administrative center in Russia, which would target the UOC MP, as it has not cut ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

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