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World News

Tough bail conditions set for Ukraine Orthodox cleric

by Reuters Journalist

A Kyiv court on Friday ordered pre-trial detention for a senior cleric of a branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with historic links to Moscow on suspicion of sympathising with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine has been cracking down on the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church on grounds it is pro-Russian and collaborating with Moscow. 

The church denies the allegations and says it severed all ties with Moscow last year, but many of its churches have been searched and dozens of its clergy have faced charges.

Metropolitan Pavlo had been under house arrest since April on suspicion of inflaming religious hatred and justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched in February 2022.

Ukrainian news reports said a Kyiv district court ordered him placed in detention unless he posted bail of more than 33 million hryvnias, equivalent to about $900,000.

Ukraine's UNIAN news agency quoted Pavlo as telling the court that he could not come up with that sum.

"I hand over the investigator and the prosecutor into the hands of God. May they be rewarded for today," he was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, Ukraine's SBU security service said it advised  Pavlo of new allegations in connection with a media interview he gave in which he is alleged to have denied the existence of Ukraine as a sovereign state.

Allegations also focus on testimony that he violated the terms of his house arrest outside Kyiv and had been seen by the 1,000-year-old Pechersk, or Caves, monastery in the city centre.

Ukrainian authorities have been trying to evict members of the Moscow-linked church from the monastery.

The Moscow-linked church is accused of maintining ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, which backs the war and used to be its parent church.

The majority of Ukraine's 44 million people are followers of Orthodox Christianity - but the faith is split in the country. 

An independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was established in the months following the collapse of Soviet rule, but only secured recognition from the world-wide Orthodox hierarchy in 2019 after years of Russian opposition.

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