Vladimir Putin has threatened to punish those who, he says, oppress the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. He said this during a speech to veterans and blockade survivors in St. Petersburg, when he commented on the situation in Ukraine, against which he launched a war in February last year. The UOC itself declared its independence from the ROC and directly asked Moscow not to try to defend it.
Putin's statement about the UOC contradicts the policy of maximum distancing from Moscow, which this church has taken since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Before the war with Russia, it was known as the UOC-MP, but in May it held a council, following which it declared independence from the Moscow Patriarchate. At the same time, discussions about whether the UOC has truly become independent from Moscow are still ongoing. Many bishops and priests do not support the separation of the UOC from Moscow.
In December 2022, the government of Ukraine imposed sanctions against a number of hierarchs of the UOC, and the church leadership defrocked several of the most odious clergy. In January, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky revoked the citizenship of 13 clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and at the end of last year, the SBU conducted a series of searches in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra and other churches in different regions of Ukraine, but no high-profile revelations were reported.
On Tuesday, at the initiative of Russia, the situation with the UOC was discussed at a meeting of the UN Security Council. Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya claimed that the Ukrainian authorities are preparing "a whole series of new initiatives, the purpose of which is to discriminate against communities and believers of the UOC."
The statement of the UOC that came out this week was sustained in the spirit of dissociating itself from unsolicited protection: “The UOC has not turned to any state in the world with a request for assistance in protecting its rights, and even more so to a state that has committed a treacherous attack on our country… We urge the Russian authorities not speak on behalf of our Church on international platforms and not use the religious factor for their own political purposes," the text says.