Ukraine sanctions wealthy businessman, nine priests linked to Russian church
KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy imposed sanctions on one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen and nine senior priests associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, blocking their assets for five years.
The move was the latest in a series of steps taken by Kyiv against the Russian Orthodox Church, which has vocally supported President Vladimir Putin’s almost-year-old invasion of Ukraine.
A decree published on the president’s website late on Tuesday said the sanctions were introduced against Vadym Novinsky, whose wealth before the war was estimated at between $1.3 billion and $3.5 billion by the Forbes Ukraine outlet.
Novinsky, who is currently thought to be in Germany, has business interests in the energy and steel sectors.
He also holds the religious title of deacon and sponsored a branch of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church that was loyal to Moscow for many years, according to Ukrainian media reports.
The sanctions list also included Pavel Lebed, vicar of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery, and other senior clerics from regional branches of the church in the east and south – the main fronts in the war – as well as Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Russia in 2014.
Novinsky and the priests could not immediately be reached for comment.
Zelenskiy and his team have cracked down on many representatives of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church loyal to Moscow, accusing them of supporting “genocide” under the guise of religion.
Earlier this week similiar sanctions were imposed on 22 Russians associated with the Russian Orthodox Church.
A majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians and competition has been fierce between the branch of the church historically linked to Moscow and an independent church proclaimed after independence from Soviet rule in 1991.
(Reporting by Olena Harmash; editing by Tom Balmforth and Mark Heinrich)