On the orders of the Ukrainian government, the monks living at the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Kyiv Monastery of the Caves) members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) had to evacuate the premises as of today.

Moving operations began this morning amid a large police deployment, especially to ensure that no object or piece of furniture belonging to the state-owned Lavra (monastery compound) were not removed.

From the wee hours, the faithful gathered at the site, with no particular intentions to protest, but singing and praying in the corners of the parvis in front of the entrance, monitored by police.

Several monks began to leave the premises, taking with them several machines. When asked by journalists what they were doing, they could not explain where they were going. “I can’t say what they are for,” said a young monk while loading a large industrial tool.

In recent years, in addition to areas designated for religious purposes, the Lavra provided spaces to make furniture and various equipment, mostly for commercial purposes, as well as printing machines for books and magazines.

For the members of the pro-Moscow monastic community, it will not be easy to find a new place to relocate, especially after the UOC-MP is set to lose other state-owned sites, which have already been visited by Ukrainian authorities.

The UOC-MP failed to live up to the terms of the lease it had signed with Ukrainian authorities, especially with respect to the use of the monastery for commercial use, which led to the lease’s termination.

Now the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) could take over the Lavra from its pro-Russian rival, this according to Dmytro Horevoy (Gorevoy), director of the Centre for Religious Security, a private institute for socio-religious analysis based in Kyiv.

Two monasteries from the 12th and 17th centuries in Chernigov, and the 17th century Pochaiv Lavra in the Ternopil region, should follow, Horevoy added, since they, “too are property of the Ukrainian state.”

Ukraine’s Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko has already stated the leases on these monasteries “will be terminated”, as will those of other similar buildings like the Sviato-Troitskyi Monastery [Monastery of the Holy Trinity] in Korets (Rivne Oblast).

Now the Ukrainian authorities could issue a decree banning all legal and ecclesiastical tie with the Moscow Patriarchate, thus stripping the UOC-MP of all its assets in the country, not only those that it leased from the government.

After the charges that it violated the terms of its lease on the great ancient monasteries, it could be accused of collaborating with the enemy, something which might entail the Church being outlawed as a whole. Currently, the UOC-MP has 12,000 parishes throughout Ukraine.