Controversial religious procession reaches Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra: No incidents reported
In early July, in western Ukrainian Ternopil region and in eastern Ukrainian Donetsk region a “Cross procession for peace” started simultanioulsy, launched by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. On July 27, the two columns converged in the capital city of Kyiv, where a prayer service was held at St. Volodymyr's Hill. The all-night vigil will be held at the square outside the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Given the political pretext many have seen to the procession, with some of Ukraine’s officials claiming the event is a tool in Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine, aimed at spreading unrest within Ukraine, extensive measures were taken by law enforcement agencies to ensure security of the participants and prevent provocations.
Some 8,700 people arrived in Kyiv to take part in the event, according to Chief on the National Police Khatia Dekanoidze.
Metal detectors were installed beforehand in the city center along the way of the columns.
Read alsoActivists gather outside Kyiv to prevent religious march from entering (Photo)As of 16:00 Kyiv time, the participants of the religious procession have reached their final destination, the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra.
No incidents were reported by local officials.
During the day, many of the central streets in Kyiv were closed for traffic. At the moment, the traffic has been resumed.
As UNIAN reported earlier, citing RFE/RL, the All-Ukrainian Procession of the Cross for Peace, Love and Prayer for Ukraine includes thousands of believers from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate – an affiliate of the Russian Orthodox Church and a rival of a major Kyiv-based church.
Ukrainian authorities said they suspect the marches are merely a front for a Moscow-orchestrated plot to stir unrest and prove what Russia has claimed since Euromaidan protests drove a Moscow-aligned president from power in 2014: that the rights of Russians, Russian speakers, and members of the Moscow-based church's flock are at risk here.
Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy dismissed those Russian claims and accuses Russia's Federal Security Service, the FSB, of planning to use the marches to destabilize Ukraine by fomenting unrest in the streets of Kyiv and creating "an artificial political crisis."
"Together with peaceful believers, [the FSB] are bringing provocateurs with prohibited symbols and symbols of the aggressor country… including athletic youths who have a history of participating in church-related attacks," Parubiy alleged in a recent telecast. He said authorities had gathered intelligence that proved his concerns legitimate, but he did not present evidence of his claims.
Archbishop Yevstratiy, secretary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, told Ukraine's EspresoTV that he believes the motive for the procession is to show that there is broad support in Ukraine for "Russkiy Mir," or the Russian World – a term that has been used by President Vladimir Putin and other Russians to describe what they claim as Russia's sphere of cultural, spiritual, and political influence – at a time when Ukrainian churchgoers are increasingly leaving the Moscow Patriarchate for the Kyiv Patriarchate.
Meanwhile, Vasyl Hrytsak, chief of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), claimed Russia had orchestrated the processions in hopes that a "Franz Ferdinand moment" would occur, referring to the Austrian archduke whose assassination in 1914 sparked World War I. Then, he said, Moscow could claim Ukraine is violating Orthodox Christian believers' rights, concocting a reason to intervene.