Kiev, December 20, Interfax - The Verkhovnaya Rada has passed legislation obliging the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate to indicate its affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church in its name.
An Interfax correspondent reported from the parliament that 240 deputies supported Bill No. 5309 amending the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations.
"A religious organization that is a structural part of a religious organization with its center in the state that has committed military aggression against Ukraine and temporarily occupied its territory must indicate affiliation with this religious organization outside the country in its name," the bill reads.
Such a religious organization would have to fully indicate the name of the organizations whose part it is in its statutory name. It can add the words "in Ukraine" to this name.
This obligation would be applied pursuant to several preconditions.
It would apply to a religious organization in Ukraine if its statute indicates that it is a structural part of another organization with its center outside the country.
It would also apply if the statute of a foreign religious organization "with its center in the aggressor country stipulates that its structure includes a religious organization acting in Ukraine and that its statutory governing bodies can make canonical and organizational decisions that are binding for the religious organization in Ukrainian territory."
It would also apply if, under the organization's statute, the leaders of the religious organization in Ukraine necessarily belong to the statutory governing bodies of a foreign religious organization and have full voting status.
The legislation's transitional provisions stipulate that priests and preachers of a religious organization to which this legislation applies will be limited in their access to military units and garrisons of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The legislation will take effect at the moment of its promulgation.
If a religious organization to which this legislation applies fails to change its official name and submit this information for registration within four months after the legislation takes effect, its statute will become invalid.
After the legislation takes effect, the central executive body implementing state policy in the religious sphere will have to carry out a theological study of the registered statutes of religious organizations. If it uncovers circumstances regulated by this legislation, this body will have to notify a relevant religious organization of this via the official publication Uryadovy Kuryer.
At the present time, the official name of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is in canonical union with the Moscow Patriarchate is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
An Interfax correspondent reported from the Rada that after the lawmakers voted and passed the legislation, Nestor Shufrich of the Opposition Bloc faction tore down a banner posted on the parliamentary rostrum that depicted Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Choice - People's Right association and a member of the party For Life, behind bars, with a caption saying 'Bring Putin's Agent Medvedchuk to Court.'
Yury Bereza, a member of the Popular Front faction, ran up to Shufrich and snatched the banner from his hands. By this time, several dozen parliamentarians from both factions had gathered around the rostrum.
After Bereza snatched the banner from Shufrich, a brief scuffle erupted between a group of Opposition Bloc members and deputies from Popular Front on one side and unaffiliated lawmakers on the other. After the brawl, Popular Front again put the banner on the rostrum.
Following the incident, Rada Speaker Andrey Parubiy announced a recess.
Before the vote, about 700 supporters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate gathered outside the Verkhovnaya Rada to protest the parliament's adoption of bills on religious organizations, an Interfax correspondent reported.
They gathered on Constitution Square along a metal fence installed along the perimeter of the parliament.
They are holding church flags and several banners. One of the banners reads "Parliamentarians, are you servants of the people or their executioners? The believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are your people."
Some of the participants in the event are wearing priests' robes, and some are reading prayers and crossing themselves.
Security in the area has been tightened.