Did Zelensky Just Back Expulsion of Christian Monks?

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Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has endorsed the order to expel monks of the canonical Orthodox church from the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, insinuating they were agents of Russia. Moscow has called on all Christian churches, as well as the UN and other international organizations, to respond to the “outrageous” decision.

“This week there is also a move to strengthen our spiritual independence,” Zelensky said in a weekly address to the nation on Sunday evening. “We will not allow the terrorist state any opportunity to manipulate the spirituality of our people, to destroy our holy sites – our Lavras – or to steal valuables from them.”

He also claimed the steps his government was undertaking were “completely legal” and had the full support of the Ukrainian public.

On Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture notified the monks they had until March 29 to vacate the monastery, claiming they had violated the 2013 agreement under which the state allowed them to administer the national historic preserve. Founded in 1051, the Pechersk Lavra (‘Monastery of the Caves’) is considered the most prominent Orthodox Christian site in Ukraine.

Kiev has already expelled the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) from two of the cathedrals above the monastery. Within days of that decision, in early January, the government-created Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was allowed to hold services on the premises.

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