Ukraine cleric accused of glorifying Russia invasion given house arrest - church

Members of the State Security Service of Ukraine read an accusation letter to abbot of the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Metropolitan Pavlo of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, accused of being linked to Moscow, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, at a compound of the monastery in Kyiv, Ukraine April 1, 2023. Press Service of the State Security Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) - A top Ukrainian cleric from a church with alleged Moscow ties was sentenced to house arrest on Saturday after a hearing into whether he glorified invading Russian forces and stoked religious divisions, the church said.

Kyiv is cracking down on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) on the grounds it is pro-Russian and collaborating with Moscow, a charge the church denies.

In a statement, the UOC said a Kyiv court also ordered Metropolitan Pavlo to wear an electronic bracelet. The Interfax Ukraine and Ukrinform news agencies said Pavlo had been given 60 days of house arrest.

"I haven't done anything. I believe this is a political order," Pavlo told reporters after the ruling.

Prosecutors said the house arrest and electronic bracelet were precautionary measures, with prosecutor Yevhen Zavistovskyi saying that the case against Pavlo would continue.

Russia's TASS state news agency said the court ordered Pavlo to live in a village some 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Kyiv. Pavlo said the house was not fit for inhabitation.

"There is nothing to sleep on, no heat and no light. There is no kitchen, no spoon. But it's okay, I'll endure it all," he said. Pavlo has been living in accommodation in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a 980-year old monastery complex the government says the church must leave.

TASS also said the court had denied Pavlo permission to attend church services.

Pavlo's court appearance came after he was questioned by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which presented the cleric with a series of accusations.

Sixty-one UOC clergy have had criminal cases opened against them since the start of 2022 with seven found guilty.

Pavlo, a senior UOC official, is the abbot of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. The church has thus far refused to leave.

The UOC has been accused of maintaining links to the pro-invasion Russian Orthodox Church, which used to be its parent church but with which the UOC says it broke ties in May 2022.

The UOC is Ukraine's second-largest church, though most Ukrainian Orthodox believers belong to a separate branch of the faith formed four years ago by uniting branches independent of Moscow's authority.

Moscow said last month that Ukraine was "illegally attacking" the UOC, adding this confirmed the need for its military operations in Ukraine.

Separately, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he signed decrees to impose sanctions on more than 650 individuals and companies who he said "work for Russian aggression."

Zelenskiy advisor Andriy Yermak said the list includes Russian state and local officials, "as well as enterprises engaged in the maintenance, repair or production of military equipment."

(Reporting by Max Hunder, Viacheslav Ratynskyi, Nick Starkov and David Ljunggren; Editing by David Holmes, Jonathan Oatis and Franklin Paul)

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