KYIV -- The Swiss police file on a man who today serves as the spiritual head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) "confirms that 'Monsignor Kirill' ... worked for the KGB", the Sonntagszeitung and Le Matin Dimanche weeklies have reported.
The two newspapers said they had gained access to the file in the Swiss national archives.
Kirill, who today is a fervent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine, lived in Geneva in the early 1970s, officially as a representative of the ROC at the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Under the code name "Mikhailov", Kirill's mission was to influence the council, already infiltrated by the KGB, according to the newspapers.
The ROC has refused to comment on Kirill's spying activity in Geneva, while the WCC had maintained it had no information about the case, they said.
But, they reported, the archives showed the Soviet objective was to push the institution to denounce the United States and its allies, and to tone down its criticism of the lack of religious freedoms in the Soviet Union.
The patriarch's nephew Mikhail Gundyayev, who currently represents the Russian church at the WCC in Geneva, however, insisted to Le Matin Dimanche that his uncle "was not an agent, although he was subjected to 'strict controls' by the KGB".
This "did not affect the sincerity of his engagement in ecumenical work with other churches", he said.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) is still viewed with suspicion despite purportedly cutting ties with the Moscow-based ROC.
Ukraine's security service continues cracking down on the Ukrainian branch of the ROC, which has historically been linked to Moscow, accusing its members of collaborating with Russia's war.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) last year carried out searches of Russian Orthodox churches in the country.
On December 14 it listed more than a dozen religious sites in several Ukrainian regions, including the western Lviv region, Kherson region in the south and Zhytomyr region in the northwest.
SBU personnel carried out "counter-intelligence" measures at those sites "to identify persons who may be involved in illegal activities to the detriment of the state sovereignty of Ukraine" and "objects prohibited from circulation", it said in a statement.
The SBU on December 5 searched the Mhar Holy Transfiguration Monastery of the UOC-MP, one of the largest monasteries in Poltava province. The monastery stands near Lubny.
"Given Russia's armed aggression, these actions are taken, among other things, to prevent the use of religious communities as centres of the 'Russian world' and to protect [the] population from provocations and terrorist attacks," the SBU said in a statement, referring to a worldview that sees Russia as not a mere nation-state but a civilisation-state.
In late November, the SBU also conducted searches at the UOC-MP's Kyiv Monastery of the Caves, one of Ukraine's best-known monasteries.
At the Caves, it found and seized a considerable amount of literature that glorified the ideas of the "Russian world", several thousand Russian rubles, 2 million UAH and $100,000, the SBU said.
In addition, the authorities arrested Russians without official papers at the monastery, along with a man who has ties to Antvan, a pro-Russian news agency.
The UOC-MP in May announced it was cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, a historic move against Russia's spiritual authorities.
The church had until then formally pledged allegiance to Patriarch Kirill.
However, many Ukrainians still mistrust the church and have accused it of secret collaboration with Russia.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) -- also known as the Kyiv Patriarchate -- broke away from the Moscow Patriarchate in 2018 over the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the eastern Donbas region.
Members of the UOC-MP have been engaged in subverting Ukraine for many years, say analysts.
It is not easy for the SBU to just go and search monasteries, said Ivan Stupak, an analyst at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future who was previously employed at the SBU.
It had to open criminal proceedings and gather evidence before carrying out any action, he said.
"For example, there were suspicions that Moscow clergy were engaged in spotting for [Russian] artillery and were hiding saboteurs on site," Stupak said.
"The searches turned up literature and money -- euros, dollars, rubles. But the most important thing was the propaganda materials: pamphlets that distinctly express anti-state ideas," he said.
"It's clear that officials need to analyse what these people had on their computers, with whom they were corresponding and what instructions were given out in the provinces."
"If we know that the church was enacting an anti-Ukraine policy on a large scale and extolling Kirill and Putin, why do we need a church like that?" he said.
"The issue with the [UOC-MP] is currently at the forefront," said Taras Zagorodniy, a political analyst and managing partner of the National Anti-Crisis Group, an independent think-tank.
"This is treason. It's collaboration," he said.
"No matter how much [the UOC-MP] says it has no connection to the Russian Orthodox Church, it's not true," he said.
Surveilling the faithful
The growing mistrust of the church has led to calls for its banning.
"The Moscow Patriarchate in its modern form was created under Stalin. It's actually a rather new entity that was created by the Soviet authorities in co-operation with the NKVD, then the KGB and now the FSB," said George Kovalenko of Kyiv, a specialist on religious matters and rector of the Open Orthodox University of Saint Sophia the Wisdom.
"From the very start it was an entity that surveilled the faithful and attempted to keep them under the control of the Soviet authorities," he said.
"Internationally, the Moscow Patriarchate also engaged in spying," he said. "After the Soviet Union collapsed, the people who worked with the KGB in the Soviet era didn't go anywhere and nothing really changed."
"But now the war has brought all of this to light and made it obvious. Now the most important thing is for ... there to be concrete legal rulings," he said.
"Everyone realised before that [UOC-MP clergy] were agents, but Ukraine was afraid to do anything," Stupak said. "They thought, if we shut down the church, Putin will attack. But he has already attacked."
"So now is the time to put the nail in the coffin," he said.