Disinfo: Borrell's remarks on Russian patriarch give Kyiv 'sanction' to persecute canonical Church


EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell has said that the Russian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Kirill, could be among those targeted by the sixth package of anti-Russian sanctions. It means that the European Union effectively signalled to Ukraine that the country is free to repress its canonical church, which is the Russian Orthodox Church. The sanctions have turned from being a means to achieve some, if dubious, political results, into a self-goal, a way of proving that this process will continue despite all logic and common sense. The sanctions-hysteria has turned into an obsession. Sanctioning the Russian patriarch is a totally useless initiative, a means of satisfying the expectations of those who hate the Russian Orthodox religion and Russian culture as a whole.


This is a recurring disinformation narrative from pro-Kremlin outlets claiming that anti-Russian sanctions are illegal. This claim is made in the context of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

In reality, if sanctions will be imposed on the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, it will not be illegal because Patriarch Kirill is closely associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin and supports the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. It is not important whether one is a clergyman or a mundane person as long as they support Russia's invasion in Ukraine, which is a gross violation of international law.

If decided, possible sanctions against Patriarch Kirill will be levelled against him only and will not target the Russian Orthodox Church on the whole. Nor are these sanctions an attack on Russian culture. Russian culture is very much valued in the West, but support for Russian aggression, no matter who is expressing it, is highly criticised by the EU.

The Russian Orthodox Church is not the only canonical one in Ukraine. Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, bestowed autocephaly (canonical independence) on the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in January 2019. This was done after the Unification Church Council was held in Kyiv in December 2018, when the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate established a united local Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

A lot of parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church have turned to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine since then. More have opted for the Orthodox Church of Ukraine since Russia’s unprovoked invasion. It is the parishioners’ desire because civilian authorities do not interfere in religious issues. Church and state are separated in Ukraine.

Read more disinformation narratives about Western sanctions against Russia.

Technical remark: This disinformation was broadcast via Interfax on 31 May 2022. Due to the EU decision to temporarily restrict the spread and dissemination of some Russian media inside the EU, access to the link may not work inside the EU.


  • Reported in: Issue 283
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 31/05/2022
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Ukraine, Russia, EU
  • Keywords: Orthodox Church, Anti-Russian, Invasion of Ukraine, autocephaly
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