If the government draft law is adopted, the State Service for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience will become a key body in deciding the future fate of the UOC (in unity with the MP).
Government officials have already formed the basis for launching the mechanism of banning the Russian Church in Ukraine. The head of the agency, Viktor Yelensky, touched upon the issue in a comment to Glavcom.
Back in January, the agency ran an audit as to the possible ties between the UOC (MP) and Russia, concluding that such ties are indeed in place.
“According to the law, we carry out a religious examination not only in relation to the UOC MP, but in dozens of cases. For example, when a religious organization that no one has ever heard of submits its charter for registration,” explains Viktor Yelenskyi” lawsuits are drafter against the State Service, challenging the examination as such. When draft law No. 8371 becomes a law and if our expertise establishes that a certain religious organization (not necessarily the UOC (MP)) is affiliated with the centers of influence in the aggressor state, we will formulate a ban on this religious organization. The ban will point to what the ties with Russia are and offer a deadline to remove them. If this is not done, we will go to court. We already have a vision of how it can be done most effectively, so lawyers are developing this line.”
At the moment, Viktor Yelensky cannot say whether, in the event of the adoption of the law, a new examination will be conducted regarding the true “roots” of the UOC MP, or whether the one that has already been done will suffice.
“It depends on what the lawsuit will be about the examination. So far, I have not seen any text that refutes the conclusions contained in our substantive audit report. That is, there are many complaints that the experts who ran it are biased, there are complaints that only the charter should have been investigated but we probed into the area that is wider than that. But I did not see anyone refute exactly the conclusion that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) is in fact part of the Moscow Patriarchate. But we must be prepared for litigation,” said Yelenskyi.
However, the head of the agency suggests not to look too far ahead, but to pay attention to interesting processes ongoing in the Moscow Patriarchate itself: “There they also want to convene a Local Council regarding further relations with Moscow. Such an appeal has already been signed by 380 people, including two bishops, which has never happened before. Those people have been humiliated in many ways but they don’t back down.”