Ukraine is planning to move against churches within its borders affiliated with Russia, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy argues will help the war effort.
Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council recently told the government to make a law to ban any church that might be taking orders from Moscow, Reuters reported last Friday.
Zelenskyy justified the moves by contending that pro-Russian influences are attempting to "weaken Ukraine from within" as the country continues to resist the Russian military invasion inside its borders.
"We have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state [Russia] will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within," Zelenskyy said in an address Thursday, as quoted by the news agency. "We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul."
The law's drafting comes amid efforts by security forces in Ukraine to investigate Orthodox churches affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate.
As The Christian Post previously reported, Moscow Patriarch Kirill has been accused of abusing his position to justify the war. He was sanctioned by the United Kingdom government earlier this year.
Last month, authorities conducted searches at the Pochaiv Theological Seminary in Ternopil Oblast and the Ivano-Frankivsk Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. Ukraine's Security Service claims pro-Russian propaganda materials were found on the premises. The materials were authored by Russians and published by Russian printers. Authorities opened two criminal proceedings.
According to Reuters, the Security Service also raided at least five parishes on Friday belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church until it dropped its affiliation with the Moscow Patriarchate in May.
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, denounced the raids as "a war on the Russian Orthodox Church," according to The Kyiv Independent.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev responded to the raids by labeling the Ukrainian government "enemies of Christ and the Orthodox faith," reported Reuters. Medvedev went as far as to claim "the whole Christian world should treat them" as "Satanists" for their actions.
In 2018, the Russian Orthodox Church cut ties with the Orthodox community after the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople officially recognized a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of Russian control.
"We now stand before a new church reality: we no longer have a single coordinating center in the Orthodox Church and we must very clearly recognize that," said Metropolitan Ilarion, the Moscow Patriarchate's head of external relations, at the time. "The Constantinople Patriarchate liquidated itself as such a center."
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, said to be the biggest military conflict in Europe since World War II. Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed at the start of the invasion that the aim is to protect two regions in eastern Ukraine— Donetsk and Luhansk — that have declared their independence.
According to the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, over 6,000 civilians have been killed since the invasion began, while over 10,000 have been injured.