How Metropolitan Luka is undermining Ukraine in the interests of the Kremlin

Recently, a video appeared on the Internet in which Luka, Metropolitan of Zaporozhye and Melitopol, during a service commemorates Kirill, a protege of the Kremlin and the so-called Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Despite the fact that the head of the Russian Orthodox Church supports the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia in every possible way. Many dioceses of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) refused to commemorate the patriarch for this reason. But not Luka.

In recent years, the Metropolitan of Zaporizhzhya has often accused Ukrainian authorities and journalists of persecution. Sometimes he makes overly emotional remarks, comparing the government to Hitler or resorting to the epithet “they cut Christ’s throat”.

Metropolitan Luka: all about the agent

It is unlikely that Luka is unaware that with his statements he is playing along with the Russian government, which has been waging an aggressive war against Ukraine for two years now. But why is he doing it?

To find out, the Evocation.Info team decided to look into the metropolitan’s past. As it turns out, he is much more closely associated with the Russian Orthodox Church than he tries to show. In addition, his inner circle includes pro-Russian activists who openly collaborate with the occupiers. Read more about this below.


My brother died for Ukraine

In the second month of the full-scale invasion, while defending Ukraine from the Russian invaders, Luka’s older brother Alexander Kovalenko died. He was 56 years old. On the website of the Zaporizhzhia Eparchy of the UOC-MP
condolences to the Metropolitan on his loss.

But the clergy of the diocese have reticent about one important detail: that Luka’s brother was indeed a patriot of Ukraine, unlike the metropolitan himself.

Alexander and Andrew (Luka’s secular name, ed.) Kovalenko’s were born and grew up in the city of Khartsyzsk near Donetsk. Since 2014, the city has been occupied. Both studied and worked in Donetsk. But then their paths diverged. If Alexander went to defend his homeland, giving his life for it, Luka decided to flirt with the aggressor.


Luka’s brother Oleksandr Kovalenko died defending Ukraine from the Russian occupiers

Luka has been heading the Zaporizhzhya diocese for more than 12 years. In 2016 he was elevated to the rank of metropolitan. Even before the full-scale invasion, he was notable for his controversial statements: compared the Ukrainian government to Hitler, was not shy about giving
comments to Russian propagandists. After February 24, 2022, the metropolitan again “distinguished himself” by saying that Ukrainians deserved Russian bombardment, as well as surrendered Ukrainian journalist to the occupiers.

In early 2023, commenting on the attack on a Vinnitsa priest of the UOC MP, Luka allowed  very emotional statement to politicians and journalists, stating that “God-fearing people have cut Christ’s throat”. At a time when Russian occupiers are killing Ukrainians on a daily basis, the appropriateness of such emotionality is questionable. Luka is trying to convince us that he is independent of the ROC. But as Evocation.Info found out, he is in fact closely associated with the Russian Orthodox Church.

According to the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan is still enters to the Inter-Siberian Council, the highest deliberative body of the Moscow Patriarchate. He is also a member of the commissions of the Church Education Commission and the Commission on Bioethics in the Russian Orthodox Church. It is hard to imagine a person who is so deeply involved in the life of the ROC not being influenced by it.

Robber Cossacks

Another questionable episode in the metropolitan’s biography is his cooperation with pro-Russian Cossacks. Since 2013, Luka has been the head of the so-called synodal department of the UOC MP on Cossack affairs. This structure is coordinated by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The department, led by Luka, cooperates with an organization called the Cossack Army of Zaporozhye Lowland, which is headed by a certain Alexander Panchenko. Many of its representatives began cooperating with the occupiers after the full-scale invasion. For example, the so-called ataman Igor Lysenko after the occupation of Melitopol began patrolling the city together with the Rosgvardia.


Meeting of the Synodal Department of the UOC MP on Cossack Affairs with the participation of Metropolitan Luka and Alexander Panchenko (in uniform), September 2021

Panchenko himself is still in the shadows, but his name has appeared in the media before. In March 2014, shortly after the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine, an advisor to the president of the Russian Federation represented Alexander Panchenko as the man whose help the Russians hoped to take control of Zaporizhzhia region.

In spite of this, in recent years Metropolitan Luka continued to cooperate actively with Panchenko. This is evidenced by the reports on the website of the synodal department. For example, Panchenko participated in a department retreat in Kiev in January 2022.

Luka’s deputy Andrei Kuzmin Kuzmin repeatedly traveled to Moscow to participate in meetings of the Synodal Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church on Interaction with the Cossacks.


Alexander Panchenko (second from left) and Andrey Kuzmin (middle) at a visiting meeting of the UOC MP Synodal Department for Cossacks in the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, January 2022

A “Berkutovite” friend

Next to Metropolitan Luka can often be seen a certain Alexander Kurnikov the former Berkut special forces unit of the Interior Ministry. He refers to a friend of the metropolitan, and according to the media is his personal bodyguard.

Until recently, the 51-year-old Kurnikov was deputy of the Zaporizhzhya City Council from the pro-Russian “OPZZH” party
(at least until the party was banned in 2022, – ed.)


Former Berkutovite Alexander Kurnikov (far right) calls himself a friend of Metropolitan Luka

In his public activities, Kurnikov demonstratively supports the memory of the Berkut. It is worth recalling that this special unit of the Interior Ministry discredited itself during the Maidan in 2014. After that it was liquidated. Despite this, Alexander Kurnikov founded a club in Zaporozhye called “Berkut”. In 2019, it is personally sanctified Metropolitan Luka.

In addition, a couple of years ago, Kurnikov organized a boxing tournament in memory of “Berkutov. The latter died during the Revolution of Dignity. During the tournament Kurnikov shouted“The glory of the Berkut will always live on. This event outraged Ukrainians, after which the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs fired the police officers who took part in the tournament.

Another provocation on the part of Kournikova an invitation Russian actor Oleg Taktarov to his boxing club several years ago. The latter supports Russian aggression against Ukraine.


In 2020, Kurnikov invited actor Oleg Taktarov, who supports Russian aggression against Ukraine, to his boxing club

Here’s how Taktarov commented the full-scale invasion of Russia: “In Rostov everyone’s position is very clear, everyone understands exactly who they have been dealing with for 8 long years. Everyone has relatives in the “dnr” and “lnr”. […] Scum from all over the world are fighting against the Russian army”.

Shortly after the full-scale war began, Kurnikov posted a video in which he claimed to be on “guard of law and order”. But judging by his past antics, this statement looks completely unconvincing. It is very likely that Kurnikov will cooperate with the occupiers as soon as the opportunity arises.

Collaborative wards

Many of Metropolitan Luka’s subordinates remained in the occupied territories. Among them are those who openly cooperate with the Russians. The most famous: the vicar of the monastery in the name of St. Savva in Melitopol archimandrite Ioann (Prokopenko) and Rector of St. George’s Church in Melitopol Archpriest Maxim Smirnov.

Archimandrite Ioann agitated for a referendum on joining the russian federation, attended at the “annexation ceremony” in the Kremlin and
about the readiness to go under the direct control of the ROC. At the beginning of 2023 the churchman consecrated the future site of the chapel in Melitopol. How claim propaganda media, he did so “with the blessing of His Eminence Luka“.

Archpriest Maxim Smirnov, in turn wished Putin and the “warriors-liberators” good health, and talked about “satanic” European values.


Archpriest Maxim Smirnov of Metropolitan Luka wished health to Putin and the “warriors-liberators”/ screenshot from propaganda media

It is noteworthy that Metropolitan Luka did not publicly condemn his charges for collaborationism. This and other facts cited in the article raise serious doubts about the metropolitan’s pro-Ukrainian position. At the end of 2022, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine imposed sanctions against him. Luka responded by saying that this decision no more to him as a surprise. This begs the question: Is this punishment severe enough to dissuade the metropolitan from flirting with the aggressor?