Ukrainian Security Service opens case against priest for posting St. George Ribbon on Facebook 9 months ago

Vinnytsia, Ukraine, February 8, 2018

Photo: Facebook Photo: Facebook
The Security Service of Ukraine has opened an administrative case against a priest of the Vinnytsia Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and doctor of theology, Hieromonk John (Kurmoyarov), for posting a festive greeting card with St. George’s Ribbon on it on May 9, the day that both Ukraine and Russia celebrate Victory Day, marking the defeat over Nazi Germany in the Second World War, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ).

Fr. John noted that this is not the first time law enforcement agents have spoken with him.

In an interview with the UOJ, Fr. John explained that he had posted an image of the card on his Facebook page on May 9, when millions of people in Ukraine published the same image on their pages. There were no complaints about it at the time, but now, nearly a year later, local police and Security Service agents have begun to call on him for an explanation.

“The Security Service of Ukraine has opened a case against me!... You’ll laugh, but it’s because i posted a congratulatory greeting card with an image of St. George’s Ribbon on May 9 last year,” Fr. John wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine banned the St. George Ribbon in Ukraine on May 16, after Fr. John had already posted the card and ribbon. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the bill into law on June 12, reports RadioFreeEurope. According to Article 58 of the Ukrainian Constitution, laws are not to work retroactively.

The historical black and orange ribbon was banned in an anti-Russian reactionary move. The ribbon dates to 1769 when Empress Catherine II inaugurated the Order of St. George. It was later used by the Soviets for a medal celebrating the victory of Germany in World War II. The ribbon is today part of the annual May 9 Victory Day celebrations. Supporters of Crimea’s return to Russia symbolically used the ribbon, and so some Ukrainians now see it as a symbol of Russian aggression, rather than of their common victory over Nazism.

Ukrainians began using a red poppy as a symbol for Victory Day in 2015.

Fr. John also noted that he has already given the police all the necessary explanations, but a court hearing will still be held soon.

“Here is what I am thinking,” the hieromonk continues, “firstly, I’m being threatened with a fine, and until that happens, can I safely post St. George’s Ribbon wherever? Secondly, when I pay the fine, I will openly wear St. George’s Ribbon, since I figure I will have paid for the opportunity. And thirdly, when this idiotic government leaves the scene, I will seek material and moral compensation and an apology from the Security Service.”

Fr. John faces a fine of 850 to 2,250 hryvnia ($31-$83). He has since reposted the card on his Facebook page.

He also noted in his Facebook post that anyone can wear and display the Nazi swastika without any fear of legal retribution.

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