President Volodymyr Zelensky imposed sanctions on one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen and nine high priests linked to the Orthodox Church of Russia, freezing their assets for five years.
This decision was one of the latest in a series of initiatives by Kyiv against the Orthodox Church of Russia, which has expressed its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin almost since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A decree published on the Ukrainian president’s website late on Tuesday said the sanctions were imposed against Vadim Novinsky, who was estimated to be worth between $1.3-3.5 billion before the war, according to the Ukrainian edition of Forbes magazine.
Novinsky, who is now believed to be in Germany, has business interests in the energy and steel sectors.
He also holds the ecclesiastical title of deacon and funded the part of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine that has been friendly to Moscow for many years, according to Ukrainian media.
The list of sanctions includes Pavel Lebed, the chaplain of the Kyiv-Pecherk Lavra monastery, and other senior clerics from the church’s regional branches in the east and south – where the major war fronts are located – as well as Crimea, which was occupied and annexed by Russia in 2014.
Novinsky and the priests were not immediately accessible for comment.
Zelensky and his team have taken harsh measures against many representatives of the pro-Moscow segment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, accusing them of supporting the “genocide” under the guise of religion.
Earlier this week, similar sanctions were imposed on 22 Russians associated with the Orthodox Church of Russia.
The majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians, and the competition is fierce between the part of the church historically associated with Moscow and an independent church proclaimed after independence from Soviet rule in 1991.