The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a series of raids on Monday, December 3, targeting Russian Orthodox churches and priests in several parts of the country. According to the SBU, eight searches were conducted at churches and the homes of the priests in Kyiv and Zhytomyr oblast. The SBU said that the operations were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence. Russian Orthodox Church leaders also reported that over 20 priests were summoned for questioning by the SBU on Sunday, December 2. Protests by Russian Orthodox members against the operations are possible in the coming days and weeks as tensions remain high between Ukraine and Russia.
Ukraine split from the Russian Orthodox Church and formed an independent church under the Kyiv Patriarchate on October 11. The move prompted a series of retaliatory attacks on Orthodox places of worship in Kyiv. Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the escalation of the conflict in the country's eastern regions, many in Ukraine consider the Russian Orthodox Church as a tool to spread the Kremlin's influence in the country.
Tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated on November 25 after Russian forces opened fire on three Ukrainian navy ships in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian government responded by declaring martial law on November 28 in eastern and central regions and banning all male Russians aged 16 to 60 from entering the country.
Individuals in Ukraine, particularly in Kyiv, are advised to monitor the situation and avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution.
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