KYIV: In a Kyiv monastery that has played a crucial role in both Ukrainian and Russian history, scores of monks accused of allegiance with Moscow are defying eviction.

The government has said they must leave the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra by Wednesday but the monks say the order has no basis and plan to stay “as long as physically possible”. “There is no legal foundation” for the expulsion, Archbishop Kliment, a spokesman for the church, said in the monastery.

The monks are members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was under the authority of the Russian Orthodox Church. After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, the Church broke off links with Russian Patriarch Kirill — a supporter of the war.

But Ukraine’s government believes it is still de facto dependent on Moscow. The cave monastery, which overlooks the Dnipro River, was founded in the 11th century and is a Unesco World Heritage site.

“Our Church was the first of Ukraine’s religious organisations to condemn (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war on Ukraine,” Kliment said.

“It has given its blessing to the Ukrainian army to defend the motherland,” he said.

But the government earlier this month said it was evicting the Church, citing “violations” of state property rules.

The spokesman said there was now a threat of “forced expulsion” and cut-offs of electricity, water and internet. “We will stay in the Lavra as long as physically possible,” he said.

In a video message on Wednesday, Metropolitan Pavlo, who is the director of the Lavra, called on the faithful to “defend this holy place with us”.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2023

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