Home of Russian-backed priest raided by Ukraine's security service

As the tension between Russia and Ukraine drags on over the seizure of three vessels belonging to Kiev's Navy, another tussle over Ukraine's attempt to set up an independent national Orthodox church in the country which would sever centuries-old ties between clergies of both country.

Ukrainian state security service on Friday raided the home of a senior Russian-backed Orthodox
priest, citing a clause in the criminal code relating to whipping up religious hatred.

The priest, Metropolitan Pavel, is head of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, one of Ukraine's most famous monasteries and a tourist site where mummified monks rest in labyrinthine underground caves.

SBU official Ihor Huskov said the state security service investigation of the cleric was being done under an article in the criminal code covering "violations of citizens' equality depending on racial ethnicity, religious convictions, incitement of inter-confessional hostility."

In a statement, Metropolitan Pavel said of the raid: "Today there are many questions about whether the actions of our state authority in relation to the church are legitimate. To a certain extent they are illegal."

"There is a pressure on me personally, threats are being heard, all sorts of attacks not only on me, but also on other bishops and priests. For what reason I do not know."

Since, Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow's support of separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine broke down relationships between the two neighbours.

The raid on Pavel's residence came just a day after Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, announced that the country was close to setting up an independent church under a charter from the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, the global spiritual head of Orthodox Christians.

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