A senior figure in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) was placed in pretrial detention. Cleric Metropolitan Pavlo is facing charges for voicing opinions deemed too pro-Russian.
A Kiev court ordered Pavlo to jail on Saturday. The cleric’s bail was nearly $900,000, and he could remain in pretrial detention for a month. The judge claimed Pavlo violated a court order by contacting a witness in his trial. Pavlo, who is also known as Petro Lebid, says he did not know the person he was a witness.
On April 1, Pavlo was placed under house arrest. Though initially only scheduled for a month, his house arrest has been extended several times. The charges against Pavlo include inciting hatred and justifying the Russian war in Ukraine.
On Saturday, Moscow demanded Kiev release Pavlo. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria said:
"We demand strict compliance by the Kiev regime with its international legal obligations, the immediate release of Metropolitan Pavlo, who is suffering from a serious illness, and the provision of proper medical care for him."
She added that the arrest was "yet another manifestation of political arbitrariness and lawlessness [by Kiev.]"
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has waged a culture war. The UOC has been a primary target of the "derussification" campaign. On December 1, Zelensky announced that Kiev would attempt to expel all religious institutions with ties to Russia, arguing the move would make "it impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine."
Kiev further ratcheted up the campaign to erase the UOC by seizing the assets and placing travel bans on several of the church’s top officials. Additionally, a series of raids by Ukrainian police targeted the UOC.
Zelensky’s derussification campaign has extended far beyond the UOC. Kiev has nationalized the media, renamed public places named for Russian historical figures, banned books printed in Russian and outlawed political parties representing Ukraine’s ethnic Russians.