The Ukrainian government has taken over an historic cathedral in Kyiv after its lease by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church expired.
Ukrainian security agencies believe the Pechersk Lavra, also known as the Monastery of the Caves, maintained close ties with Moscow after the Russian invasion last February. There have been a number of raids on the church in which security services claim to have found Russian passports, photographs of rubles and leaflets with messages from the Russian Patriarch Kirill – Orthodox church leaders have denied the allegations.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) declared independence from Moscow's Patriarchate after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It dropped the commemoration of Moscow Patriarch Kirill as its leader in public worship and used its own sacramental oil rather than oil from Moscow.
Ukrainian Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko confirmed that the church had been taken over by the state. He said the rival church - the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) had asked for and was granted permission to conduct a service at the cathedral to mark Orthodox Christmas this weekend.
The church was founded as a cave monastery in 1051and is recognised as a major centre of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Europe. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.