Sergei Ryakhovsky is accused of “publicly supporting and justifying the Russian war”. 21 leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are also sanctioned.
Ukraine approved a proposal by the National Security and Defense Council to sanction “22 Russian citizens who support terror and genocidal politics under the guise of spirituality”, said President Zelensky in his Monday video address.
Among the sanctioned is the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the World Council of Churches and other international organisations in Geneva, Mikhail Gundyaev, and 20 other leaders and priests, who are responsible for the Church's cooperation with the military and law enforcement, and its public communications.
Gundyaev is a nephew of the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
Sergei Ryakhovsky, the head of the Spiritual Council of the Russian United Union of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) has also been sanctioned, for “publicly supporting and justifying the Russian war against Ukraine”.
Last summer, Ukrainian Protestants asked Ryakhovsky to “repent” for a speech he gave in the State Duma on 29 March, where he stated that “we treat our Ukrainian brothers with deep understanding, we continue to pray for them, but there will be no reaction, no answer from our side; we are not going to add fuel to the fire”.
Ryakhovsky responded that the Protestant churches in Russia “do not interfere with politics, unlike our brothers in Ukraine”.
The sanctions include blocking accounts and personal assets; a ban on concluding transactions with securities; suspending any transport and transit of resources via Ukraine and the withholding of Ukrainian state awards, among others.
Six of the defendants will face these sentences for 30 years and the rest for 5 years.
Ukraine already sanctioned Patriarch Kirill last year, and last June UK did the same for his “prominent support of the Russian military aggression in Ukraine”.
During Russia's full-scale invasion, religious analysts has seen Kirill promotion of the nationalistic and religious idea of the Russki Mir (“Russian World”) as a foundation to justify a forced unification of Ukraine and Russia.
Moreover, last December, Zelensky also sanctioned 7 leaders and clergy members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate, which was subject to multiple raids earlier.