Fact Check: Incidents Do NOT Prove Ukraine's Systematic Attack On Orthodox Priests Of Moscow Patriarchate


  • Автор: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Incidents Do NOT Prove Ukraine's Systematic Attack On Orthodox Priests Of Moscow Patriarchate No Evidence

Have three priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate been physically attacked in March 2022 and January 2023 in Ukraine, as part of a systematic effort to intimidate and harass them? No, there is no evidence to support the claim: The specific cases cited as examples in a recent Belarusian TV show are missing context or provide incomplete or false information.

The claim originated from a video (archived here) published on TikTok by marina_kmm on May, 19, 2023, under the title "This topic troubles me", translated from Russian into English by Lead Stories staff. It opened:

Why??? Why did Ukraine decide to oust Orthodoxy???

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

TikTok screenshot

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon May 22 10:07:00 2023 UTC)

Footage from Belarusian TV program Po Forme aired on May, 2, 2023, showed what it claimed to be examples of physical attacks and intimidation of priests by Ukrainians. However, crucial context is missing and no evidence is presented to support the claims.

In one example, the program reports of an incident happened on January, 2, 2023, saying that in that occasion Father Antonii Kovtonyuk was attacked and injured, but it fails to provide context about the attacker: a man with psychological problems who was a mental hospital patient.

In another case, a man who died following his detention by Ukrainian security services was described in the TV program as a priest, yet there is no record that the man, Sergey Tarasov, was a clergyman: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church released a statement on March, 16, 2022, informing that no man with that name was part of the staff of the UOC or had any role within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Another incident mentioned in the program reports of a clergyman allegedly assaulted and kicked out of a church in the Cherkassy region, but no name is given to identify him.

The last case raised is that of a church official, Vasili Miroshnichenko, who was described as missing and his fate was reported as unknown, but the official website of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church addressed the incident on March, 29, 2022, stating that "he is alive and still serves in Smela deanery".

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOCMP), Ukraine's largest Orthodox Church, has hundreds of thousands of followers. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and Moscow's patriarch, Kirill, strongly backing the invasion, doubts have been raised on the loyalty of the UOCMP priests in the country, and the church has been under increasing scrutiny for inciting ethnic hatred and spreading pro-Russian propaganda.

In a December 2022 address, President Zelenskyy announced a "religious examination of the Management Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the presence of a church-canonical connection with the Moscow Patriarchate" and said that if necessary, "measures provided for by law" would be applied.

According to Reuters, since October 2022," the Security Service of Ukraine has regularly carried out searches at UOC churches, imposed sanctions on its bishops and financial backers, and opened criminal cases against dozens of its clergymen," which would indicate some level of state sanctioned actions against priests loyal to the patriarch of Moscow.

However, the three specific cases presented by the Po Forme TV show to back up the claim of systematic attacks and intimidations of Orthodox priests in Ukraine are misleading, lacking context and providing false information.

  Lead Stories Staff

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.

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