Interfax: Ukrainian military are pressuring Donbas Orthodox Christians – Metropolitan Onufry

Ukraine Map and Flag

MOSCOW. Aug 1 (Interfax) – Metropolitan of Chernivtsi and Bukovina Onufry, the locum of the Kyiv Metropolia, has accused the Ukrainian military of pressuring Orthodox Christians in Donbas.

“I have to state violations of the rights and freedoms of believers and interference in the work of parishes of the Donetsk diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the militant contingent in eastern Ukraine,” the metropolitan said in his address to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko released by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church press service.

Metropolitan Onufry asked the president to “personally intervene in this situation and do everything possible to prevent such actions by the military from occurring again.”

The metropolitan said Metropolitan of Donetsk and Mariupol Hilarion had reported to him violations of believers’ rights and freedoms and interference in the work of the parishes of the Donetsk diocese.

Specifically, he mentioned an incident that occurred in the village of Krasnoarmeyskoye, Donetsk region, on July 30, when a car carrying armed men arrived at the residence of Ihor Serhiyenko, the father superior of the Church of Alexander Nevsky. The men insulted the priest, asked how much money he was sending to Moscow, and accused him of assisting bandits. The men also searched the priest’s residence and demanded that he leave the territory of Ukraine within two days and give them the documents for the church along with a contract for the entire church property, the report says.

Metropolitan Onufry said a similar thing happened to Archpriest Yevheniy Podgorny, dean of the Amvrosiyevka district, on July 30. The military who inspected his car at a checkpoint began insulting him and made ungrounded accusations against him, saying he financed the Donetsk People’s Republic.

“Archpriest Yevheniy Podgorny was taken behind the checkpoint, his hands were bound and he was thrown on the ground. They began beating him on the chest and lower back with a gun and kicked him on the head, making him admit that he was a spotter for the enemy. They also made other ungrounded accusations,” the document says.

Metropolitan Onufry said the attackers had belittled the priest and tried to make him take off his cross. When he refused, the military tore the cross from him, fired shots at his head and “continued torturing him and putting psychological pressure on him.” Then they put a bag on his head and put him into a pit, searched his residence, took his money and car, and accused his 16-year-old son of assisting bandits, threatening to kill him. Archpriest Yevheniy was released after his flock and clergymen intervened in the situation.