Verkhnya Yablunka, Lvov Province, Ukraine, April 12, 2022
An increased number of violent attacks and incidents of pressure against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church continue in Ukraine.
Among the many recent stories, the Rivne Diocese reports that local deputies have initiated a process to consider banning the UOC in the village of Tarakaniv.
Another incident occurred in the village of Verkhnya Yablunka in the western Lvov Province, where a priest was violently dragged out of church during the Liturgy. The church caught fire later that evening.
According to a statement from the Lvov Diocese, the incident occurred at the Church of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God, which sits on a private plot and was just consecrated last August.
The church serves about 40 parishioners, though there hadn’t been any services since the start of the fratricidal war in late February. However, on April 10, Archpriest Ilya Urusky celebrated the Divine Liturgy there at the request of the faithful to have Confession and Communion.
During the service, during the reciting of the Nicene Creed, government officials accompanied by priests and parishioners of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” and the Uniate Catholic church entered the church and violently dragged Fr. Ilya out onto the street when he refused to stop the service. They ordered the church to be closed, though thankfully the priest was able to negotiate to be allowed to retrieve the antimens and sacred items from the building.
Later commenting to the press, village head Eva Semkiv stated that they closed the church because the people refused to leave the Moscow Patriarchate.
Watch the scene after Fr. Ilya was dragged from the church:
Those parishioners who were present were also threatened to attend an OCU or Uniate church next Sunday, otherwise “certain measures will be applied against them,” as their names and addresses are all known. They filed complaints with local authorities and the Ukrainian Security Service but they were told to “wait until they figure out what really happened there.”
That same evening, the Security Service took Fr. Ilya away in a car with a bag over his head. He was held overnight, and they began to interrogate him in the morning. They accused the priest of various things, including taking part in the arson against the Pochaev Icon Church, which he only learned about from the interrogators, as the arson had occurred during the night while he was in their custody. That afternoon, he was taken to the bus station, again with a bag on his head.
According to the State Emergency Service, the wooden church began to burn at about 2:30 AM on April 11. The building suffered severe damage, though thankfully there were no human casualties. The cause of the fire is being investigated.