Ukrainian police in Kyiv are preparing to evict Orthodox priests who are refusing to leave a historic monastery complex known as the Pechersk Lavra or the Monastery of the Caves.
The effort is part of a broad crackdown on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) launched by the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The UOC has historic links to Russia but is the largest church in Ukraine, having more parishes than the similarly named Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which has no affiliation with Moscow.
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UOC denounced the war and cut ties with Moscow, but the steps were not enough for Zelensky. Some UOC priests have been accused of collaborating with Russian troops, and now many are facing sanctions, criminal charges, and eviction.
The 500 UOC priests, nuns, and theologians living in the Pechersk Lavra have been given until Wednesday to leave the monastery, but they say they aren’t going anywhere. “I won’t leave unless I am forced to,” Simeon, a young monk, told The Times of London.
Simeon said the police said they wouldn’t use force to evict the priests, but it’s not clear what will happen when the deadline comes, and they haven’t left. Police and members of the Ukrainian Culture Ministry have been standing guard outside of the Pechersk Lavra for a week to keep an eye on what some people leaving the monastery are taking out.