Ukraine says ‘dubious’ Russians found in raid on Kyiv monastery
KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine’s security service said on Wednesday it had found “dubious” Russian citizens, large sums of cash in various currencies and pro-Russian literature during a raid on a 1,000-year-old Kyiv monastery denounced by Moscow as “godless”.
The SBU security service and police raided the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra complex – or Kyiv Monastery of the Caves – on Tuesday as part of operations that it said were intended to counter suspected “subversive activities by Russian special services”.
The site is a Ukrainian cultural treasure and also the headquarters of the Russian-backed wing of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that falls under the Moscow Patriarchate and is mistrusted by many Ukrainians.
The SBU said in a statement that 350 buildings belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and 850 people had been checked. It made no mention of any immediate arrests.
“More than 50 people underwent in-depth counterintelligence surveys, including using a polygraph. Among them were not only citizens of Ukraine, but also foreigners, in particular citizens of the Russian Federation who were on the territory of the facilities,” it said.
It said some had Ukrainian passports “with signs of forgery or damage” and, in the title of the statement on its website, described some of the Russian citizens as “dubious”.
The SBU said the search also uncovered pro-Russian literature used in seminary and parish schools, including to promote the “Russian world”, and cash in various currencies worth tens of thousands of dollars was discovered.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said there was no justification for the raid on the Kyiv monastery and compared the “Kyiv regime” to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine whose name is often associated in Russian with immoral mayhem, chaos and revelry.
“This is just some kind of total godless Bacchanalia. There is no justification or explanation for this. And there cannot be,” Zakharova said on Sputnik radio.
“This is another part of the absolutely immoral and wild actions of the Kyiv regime.”
Russia’s Orthodox Church said on Tuesday the search was an “act of intimidation”.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing in Sydney by Lidia Kelly and Kyiv by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Nick Macfie)