Kiev, May 2, 2022
A bill on sanctions against the primate and three other high-level representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church has been submitted to Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
Draft resolution No. 7332 was registered on April 29, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists with reference to the official Rada website. Similar calls have come from other states and organizations as well.
The bill calls for sanctions against His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Department for External Church Relations (DECR) His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, DECR Deputy Head Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, and His Eminence Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhovsk, who, according to the bill, is “Vladimir Putin's confessor and a person close to the Russian special services.”
The draft law is proposed by more than 20 deputies from the Voice, Servant of the People, European Solidarity, and Freedom parties, including the authors of the recently submitted bills calling for a total ban on the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The text states that representatives of the Russian Church have “repeatedly publicly supported” the “armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” which the authors characterize as “genocide.” According to the bill, they “perform the function of civil servants in religion, implementing the policy of the Russian Federation through the means of power and influence available to them.”
The explanatory note points to a number of statements from the Patriarch concerning the fratricidal war, and also identifies the given metropolitans and Fr. Nikolai as the main developers and defenders of the idea of the “Russian World,” which the authors believe “denies the existence of the Ukrainian people as a separate nation, and is based on distorted stories of Orthodoxy and a rewriting of the history of Kievan Rus for the benefit of Moscow.”
The proposed sanctions include a ban on entry and the blocking of assets, the deprivation of Ukrainian state awards, a ban on the acquisition of land and other properties, the temporary restriction of the right to use and dispose of property, the restriction of trade operations, and the prevention of the withdrawal of capital outside of Ukraine, among other measures.
And last week, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in an interview that they have submitted a proposal to the European Union to personally sanction Patriarch Kirill.
“There is such a proposal… We do not yet have the final answers on whether it will be possible to do so,” Landsbergis said.
Russian Church representative Vladimir Legoida, head of the Synodal Department for Relations Between the Church and Society and the Media, commented that such a proposal can only be called “absurd.” Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev has also condemned the proposal as part of an “anti-Russian frenzy.”
The Lithuanian Foreign Minister also noted that there is talk amongst some clerics of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania of leaving the Moscow Patriarchate and joining Constantinople. In fact, according to the hierarchs, a handful of clerics have been suspended for schismatic agitation.
His Eminence Metropolitan Innokenty of Vilnius and Lithuania has strongly condemned the fratricidal war in Ukraine, and the Lithuanian Church held a large cross procession for peace in Ukraine and Church unity in Lithuania on Saturday.
The ecumenical organization the World Council of Churches is also facing calls to expel the Russian Orthodox Church, “with detractors arguing the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, invalidated its membership by backing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and involving the church in the global political machinations of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”