It emerged on Thursday that Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, is included in the European Union’s sanctions list.
The 75-year-old Kirill has backed Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, calling on supporters to rally to fight Moscow’s “external and internal enemies.”
In February, he spoke of a struggle against the “forces of evil” opposed to the historic “unity” between Russia and Ukraine. The patriarch has claimed Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine needed to be “liberated” and called the war a “religious cleansing operation.”
Kirill has been criticized by the Pope and Elpidophoros
Kirill’s support for the war has led to a clash with both the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church.
Pope Francis told Kirill in a video meeting in March that religious leaders “must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus.” Earlier this week, he urged Kirill not to “be Putin’s altar boy.”
In April, Archbishop Elpidophoros of America slammed Russia’s Orthodox Church for supporting the invasion of Ukraine, signaling out its head Patriarch Kirill.
Speaking at an event at the Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church, Port Washington, New York, Elpidophoros said that “responsibility rests squarely on the leadership of the Russian Church and clearly on Patriarch Kirill.”
Kirill is named on the draft EU sanctions list under his birth name, Vladimir Gundyayev, and described as “one of the most prominent supporters of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine,” according to the Guardian.
He is one of 57 people who would face an EU travel ban and asset freeze under new listings being discussed by member states.
New sanctions against Russia
On Wednesday, the EU Commission proposed new sanctions against Russia, including a ban on the import of oil by the end of 2022.
“Putin must pay a high price for his brutal aggression,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as she unveiled a sixth set of proposed EU sanctions, which will require unanimous approval from member states before they can come into effect, against Russia.
Von der Leyen said the EU would seek to end its dependency on Russian oil, a major source of revenue for the Kremlin. Crude oil would be phased out in six months and refined products by the end of 2022, she said.
Von der Leyen also proposed that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, as well as two other major banks, be disconnected from the SWIFT international banking payment system and that three big state-owned Russian broadcasters—described by von der Leyen as “mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies”—be cut off from the EU on cable, satellite, and internet.
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