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Ukraine charges Moscow-backed orthodox priest with inciting religious hate

Ukraine’s Security Service has charged a Moscow-backed orthodox priest with inciting religious hatred and trying to justify the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

Petro Lebid, the abbot of the 980-year-old Kyiv Pechersk Lavra — also known as the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves — was sentenced to 60 days of house arrest amid a crackdown on the Ukrainian Orthodox church over accusations that it has been collaborating with Moscow.

The church said that the Kyiv court also ordered Lebid to wear an electronic bracelet.

The priest has since publicly denied the charges.

“I haven’t done anything,” Lebid said. “I believe this is a political order.”

Ukraine’s Tass news agency reported that Lebid was ordered to live in a village about 25 miles southeast of Kyiv, but Lebid said that the home was not fit to live in.

“There is nothing to sleep on, no heat and no light,” the priest said.

“There is no kitchen, no spoon. But it’s ok, I’ll endure it all.”

Lebid had previously been living at the monastery, but the government ordered the church to leave by midnight on Wednesday.

Lebid's lawyer, Mykyta Checkman, represented the priest during his hearing in Kyiv District Court.

However, members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church refused to leave the monastery and did not let representatives of the government enter the building, causing a scuffle to break out early Thursday morning.

Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko condemned the “brutal” response representatives of the government were met with and said a complaint had been filed with the police

Russia has since expressed outrage at the crackdown targeting the Orthodox Church.

“Such actions are increasingly plunging Ukraine into the Middle Ages in the very worst sense of the word,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.