Kiev, March 1, 2018
President Poroshenko of Ukraine spoke at a two-hour press conference yesterday about his intention to use the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a communication channel for the release of prisoners of war in eastern Ukraine, reports The Union of Orthodox Journalists.
The head of state also spoke during the “Challenges: 2018” press conference about a recent meeting he had with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, during which they discussed the possibility of securing the release of prisoners of war with the help of the Church.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the Ukrainian Church, under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, is also regularly maligned through both official and unofficial channels in Ukraine as being an agent of the “aggressor state” of Russia, and is accused of playing a role in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“There was information that we would be able through the Church to extract five of our guys from Donetsk. Unfortunately, it fell through,” Poroshenko said, while stressing that he would continue to use the Church as a channel of communication in negotiations.
According to the president, the priority at the present time is to find a peaceful, political-diplomatic means of restoring territorial integrity.
On December 27 began a prisoner exchange that saw 306 prisoners released by Kiev, and another 74 being returned to Ukraine, after an agreement was worked out in a meeting between the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, as well as the head of the public movement “Ukrainian Choice—the People’s Right,” Viktor Medvedchuk, with the mediation of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.
President Poroshenko thanked His Beatitude at a meeting on January 22 for the Church’s role in mediating the prisoner release.
His Beatitude confirmed the Ukrainian Church’s continuing readiness to be the mediator in the liberation of Ukrainian hostages. “Man wants to be free; he was created free by God; he wants this freedom,” Met. Onuphry stated.
The president also stated his readiness to help the Church in working towards the release of political prisoners who are located on the territory of Russia. “Ukraine is ready to take decisive steps towards the return home of our boys and girls,” the head of state said.
The former prisoners themselves expressed their deep gratitude to both Pat. Kirill and Met. Onuphry, recognizing that without the Church they would have never been released.