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EU targets head of the Russian church in new sanctions

The European Commission on Wednesday targeted the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, as part of its sixth package of sanctions against Russia. 

According to a European External Action Service document seen by POLITICO, Kirill has been “one of the most prominent supporters of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine” and a key player in amplifying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric on Ukraine.

The Commission highlighted a series of pro-war sermons and remarks by Kirill in the months since Russia’s lethal invasion began in February — plus his blessing for Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

“Patriarch Kirill is therefore responsible for supporting or implementing, actions or policies which undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as stability and security in Ukraine,” the document says.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has been a longtime ally of Putin, a relationship that has raised eyebrows among other church leaders. In an interview published Tuesday, the Catholic Church’s Pope Francis said he had warned Kirill not to “turn himself into Putin’s altar boy.”

EU countries still have to agree on the package of sanctions — which includes sweeping restrictions on Russian oil, banks and broadcasters — before it enters into force. 

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