Kiev, February 7, 2018
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has stated its approval of the release from custody of the two men who were arrested and sentenced in the arson against the Tithes Monastery of the Mother of God in Kiev, following their “words of contrition,” reports RIA-Novosti.
Two Kiev representatives, Alexander Gorban and Alexei Shemotiuk, set fire to the monastery’s Vladimiro-Olginsky Church on January 25, causing damage to the door. The men were arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or a 2.2 million hryvnia ($77,000) bail within a matter of days.
The men were released from prison on Monday when the bail was paid by several Parliamentarian Deputies and representatives of the Joint Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
According to the head of the Ukrainian Church’s legal department Archpriest Alexander Bakhov, the sentence of two months in the jail was quite strict, and the Church welcomed the mitigation of the decision. The Tithes Monastery’s website also reported that the brotherhood had filed an application with the appellate court to release the two men on bail on the monastery’s account.
“In this case, the Church and the brothers of the Tithes Monastery are showing mercy to these people… They expressed words of contrition in the district court and said they regretted their act. In this regard, the brothers appealed to the Kiev Appellate Court judge with a request to take them on bail,” said Fr. Bakhov.
While the monastery called for mercy on the two men, Archimandrite Gideon, the abbot of the Tithes Monastery, also noted that they are not true Ukrainian nationalists: “The nationalist is a person who supports traditional religion and shows peace and love to his neighbor. That’s a nationalist. And he wishes blessings and prosperity for his country. But if you come out to beat people and burn things that are close to their hearts, and tread upon the most important thing—upon the soul of man, upon his faith—that is terrible.”
While the Ukrainian media has attempted to paint the Church as an enemy of the people, seeking revenge and cruel punishment, “The Church does not want to prosecute anyone; it is not even a party in criminal proceedings; the religious community is not recognized as the victim,” Fr. Bakhov says.
There have been several attacks lately, and over the past several years, against the Tithes Monastery from members of radical nationalist groups in Kiev. The enemies of the Church have even circulated a petition calling for its destruction. Ukrainian radicals believe the monastery is a “Russian agent” because it falls under the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, the attacks have been occurring under the pretense that the monastery’s Vladimiro-Olginsky Church illegally stands on the territory of the Kiev History Museum.
Supporters of the arsonists, who caused damage to the church’s door early in the morning of January 25, have said that the setting of the fire was not an act of arson, but a demonstration meant to draw attention to the church’s supposed illegal status.