Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church bishop sentenced to 3 years in prison News
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Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church bishop sentenced to 3 years in prison

A Metropolitan of the Moscow-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC-MP) was sentenced to three years in prison Friday after pleading guilty before a Ukrainian court to “violating the equality of citizens.” The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said that Metropolitan Iosaf, also known as Petro Huben, distributed pro-Krelmin Russian literature that questioned Ukrainian sovereignty in coordination with the Russian Orthodox Church and its head, Patriarch Kiril.

Iosaf, who formerly led the UOC-MP’s Kirovohrad Eparchy (or diocese), was also given two years of probation and banned from religious leadership for one year.

The bishop was accused of violating Article 121 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, which prohibits:

Willful actions inciting national, racial or religious enmity and hatred, humiliation of national honor and dignity, or the insult of citizens’ feelings in respect to their religious convictions, and also any direct or indirect restriction of rights, or granting direct or indirect privileges to citizens based on race, color of skin, political, religious and other convictions, sex, ethnic and social origin, property status, place of residence, linguistic or other characteristics.

The maximum term of imprisonment for this crime is 5 years when committed by an official and accompanied by “violence, deception or threats.”

The sentencing comes amid a standoff between the Ukrainian government and the UOC-MP. The Ukrainian government has repeatedly accused the UOC-MP of supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In April, a Kyiv court gave the abbot of the government-owned Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, Metropolitan Pavel, 60 days of house arrest for undermining Ukrainian sovereignty and promoting religious enmity. Pavel’s arrest came after UOC-MP clerics refused to leave the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, which is revered as Ukraine’s holiest orthodox site, when the Ukrainian government ordered them out in March.

The UOC-MP is the Russian-affiliated orthodox church in Ukraine. It claimed independence from the Russian Orthodox Church in May 2022, but its independence is disputed by Patriarch Kiril. It is not to be confused with the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was formed in 2018 and is independent.