UGCC demands urgent release of illegally arrested priests in Berdyansk: official statement
In these dire times for our people, as we are witnessing numerous tragic victims of the troubled war times, it is with great regret and pain that we accept the news of the unjustified and illegal abduction and detention of two priests of the UGCC Exarchate of Donetsk in the city Berdyansk: hieromonk Ivan Levitsky, rector of the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, in the city of Berdyansk. Fr Bohdan Geleta, an employee of the same church, by the Russian "administration" established in the territories captured by Russian troops.
After the publication in several information resources (including in the Russian media), reports about the detention of Ukrainian priests in Berdyansk, because of the explosives allegedly found in them by the Rosgvardia troops, with charges of "subversive" and "partisan" activities directed against representatives of Russian troops stationed in the city of Berdyansk, we feel obliged to make an official statement:
1) These priests are in the place of their own priestly ministry on completely legal grounds, carrying out their statutory activities in the local parish for more than three years, voicing the word of God, which is peace for every person.
2) from the beginning of the full-scale war of the Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine until the day of their arrest by representatives of the Russian special services, they received no comments, and all their activities did not go beyond their pastoral duties and were the subject of detailed reporting, on their part, to the church authorities.
3) at the time of the search in the church and the adjacent parish house and technical premises of the parish, both priests were already arrested. That is, they could not control these premises and the actions of the Rosgvardia troops in any way. They cannot bear any responsibility for the weapons and ammunition allegedly found in them. This is clear slander and a false accusation.
4) the analysis of the library collections of this parish, presented in the journalistic report of the Zvezda channel, causes surprise and bewilderment for anyone who has at least a superficial knowledge of the European history of the last century. Such an analysis can be perceived only and exclusively as either an unsuccessful journalistic joke or as a cheap means of deliberately discrediting the clergy of the UGCC in the style of primitive slander on our church by the godless communist regime of the ex-USSR. Such methods were used by the state security agencies of that time to physically eliminate bishops, priests, and believers between World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union; and this method was again used by a journalist.
5) the very fact of such behavior on the part of representatives of the Russian local authorities in relation to the clergy of the UGCC can have only one assessment — complete disregard for the fundamental principles of human rights.
The deliberately fabricated false accusation of possession of weapons and explosives against clerics who had no intention of doing such a thing (because, for us, the most powerful force is God), which has appeared in the propaganda Russian information space after the SBU conducted searches in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, while previously that they were not accused of anything, attests to the intention to use further terror against the imprisoned fathers. it also attests that in the cities of southern Ukraine, the Russian administration operates according to the methods of the Bolshevik special services.
Only through loyalty to God and the Church are the father pastors charged with the above-mentioned "charges".
That said, we demand the speedy release from custody and imprisonment of our priests-hieromonk Ivan Levitsky and hieromonk Bohdan Geleta and ensure their unhindered legitimate service to the spiritual needs of the faithful of the UGCC living in the city of Berdyansk.
We ask for maximum dissemination of information in order to release the captured fathers. We appeal to the authorities and all people of good will to join the cause of the release of priests, as well as for increased prayer in this intention.
Merciful Lord, hear our prayers!