Ukraine | Swap of Orthodox priests for prisoners of war
Defence Redefined
Published on 22/02/2023 at 19:31

Ukraine has swapped clergymen from a branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – still under the Moscow Patriarchate – to win the release of Ukrainian soldiers captured in the war with Russia, security officials said.

One clergyman was exchanged for 28 Ukrainian soldiers, one of the officials said, a rare glimpse into the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on the exchange of prisoners of war.

Exchanged clergymen were suspected of collaboration with the enemy or treason, National Security and Defence Council Secretary, Oleksii Danilov, said in an interview with Reuters on February 7. Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for the GUR military intelligence service, confirmed that there had been such cases, refusing to say how many.

All were from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC), a branch of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which became autonomous in 2018.

Kyiv has launched a wartime crackdown on the UOC, which it accuses of harboring priests with close ties to Moscow. The church denies this and says it has fallen victim to a political “witch hunt”.

Ukraine handed over a UOC clergyman along with Russian soldiers in a prisoner swap on Thursday in which 101 Ukrainians were handed over from Moscow, Yusov said in separate televised comments.

Since October, the Security Service of Ukraine has regularly searched UOC churches, sanctioned its bishops and financial supporters, and opened criminal cases against 55 of its clergymen over the past year.

UOC spokesman Metropolitan Clement told Reuters he was aware of two cases of exchanges with UOC clergymen, but said he had no information on what they were accused of and tried for.

Source: Euronews

Also read: Munich Security Conference 2023 | Ukraine and Sino-American tension at the top of the agenda




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