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Russian Orthodox leader in Estonia says charges against him 'political'

Metropolitan Eugene.
Metropolitan Eugene. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Estonia says that accusations which have barred him from having his residency permit renewed are political in nature.

Metropolitan Eugene, head of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MPEÕK), is considered by the Internal Security Service (ISS) to be a national security threat, and faces deportation.

His residence permit in Estonia has expired.

If the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) do not find his appeal on his residence permit extension being rejected by the authorities, he must leave the country by next Tuesday, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

Metropolitan Eugene told AK that: "I am quite certain that this is a political decision aimed against me specifically. However, I hope, taking on trust the interior minister's words, that this is not a decision against the church as a whole."

Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) told AK that the government does not interfere in church affairs. "I have also told all the churches that the government of the Republic of Estonia does not interfere in the internal affairs of any churches," he said.

Indrek Aru, head of the PPA's Northern Prefecture border office meanwhile said that: "Naturally we can grasp that, when talking about a position where the state has taken the step of stating publicly that we see a security threat with regard to this individual's actions, then this position cannot change very easily overnight."

The church synod and board says it wants the metropolitan's residence permit to be extended, while the PPA cites Eugene's alleged support for Russian aggression, via public activities and speeches.

The metropolitan rejects this and is appealing the PPA decision as noted.

The belongs to the Council of Estonian Churches (Eesti kirikute nõukogu), whose president, Lutheran Archibishop Urmas Viilma, told AK that the state has the right to make such decisions, adding that a significant proportion of the relevant information has not been made public, it is difficult to evaluate the arguments.

The metropolitan said that if deported, which would mean returning to Russia, he would continue working as head of the church, remotely.

"No one has removed me from my position. I was elected by the church council, which has representatives from all parishes. So it is this institution that must decide whether I can continue to serve here. I am leaving, yet at the same time I am staying," he told AK.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Anne Raiste.

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