The Vinnitsa city court sentenced the current head of the Tulchin diocese of the UOC (MP), Metropolitan Jonathan (Anatoly Yeletsky) to five years in prison with confiscation of property on charges of justifying Russian aggression in Ukraine (Part 3 of Article 436-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). This was reported in the Vinnitsa regional prosecutor’s office.
In addition to the charge of justifying the aggression of the Russian Federation, Jonathan was found guilty under three more articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine (part 1 of article 110), violation of the equality of citizens depending on their race, nationality, regional affiliation, religious beliefs (part 2 of article 161 ), actions aimed at a violent change of power (part 2 of article 109).
According to investigators, in January 2022, the convict, “guided by pro-Russian ideological motives,” posted an author’s article on the website of the diocese about the dominant role of the “Moscow Patriarchate” in Orthodox Christianity and the denial of the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU).
Jonathan also, according to the SBU, distributed propaganda leaflets among believers, in which he “called for the seizure of power and changing the borders of Ukraine” and posted publications “in support of the Russian occupiers and their war crimes” on one of the ROC websites.
In May 2023, a court in the Ukrainian city of Kropyvnytskyi sentenced a UOC-MP cleric, ex-head of the local diocese, Metropolitan Joasaph (Nikolai Guben) to three years in prison on charges of spreading pro-Russian propaganda and inciting inter-religious hatred.
In early April 2023, a court in Kyiv sent the abbot of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) Pavel (Lebed) under round-the-clock house arrest. He is suspected under two articles of the Criminal Code – on inciting inter-religious hatred, as well as justifying Russian aggression against Ukraine. On July 13, Pavel was handed a new suspicion. The court agreed with the arguments of the SBU and changed the measure of restraint for the priest to a pre-trial detention center with the possibility of making a bail in the amount of 33 million hryvnias (about $900,000). On Monday, August 7, Metropolitan Pavel was released from custody. The pledge for him, as his lawyer Nikita Chekman said, was collected by more than a thousand believers.
The UOC is one of the two largest Orthodox religious organizations in Ukraine along with the autocephalous OCU. After the start of the war, the UOC declared its “independence” from the Moscow Patriarchate, but this independence was not formalized legally. The Ukrainian authorities believe that a number of priests and hierarchs of the UOC take a de facto pro-Russian position.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its recent report noted that the actions of the Ukrainian authorities against the UOC may be discriminatory. In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called on the UN to refrain from unbalanced political assessments.