Kiev, December 1, 2022
A top representative of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense says Ukraine could adopt some “creative approaches” to bringing prisoners of war home that could affect the Church.
According to Andrei Yusov of the Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate, POWs could be exchanged for Ukrainian Orthodox priests.
The Ukrainian Security Services have been actively carrying out searches at monasteries, churches, and diocesan administration buildings of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church recently. If any Ukrainian priests are detained during such searches, Yusov said on Ukrainian television, they could be sent to Russia in exchange for POWs.
Asked by a journalist if it’s possible to use “collaborators from the FSB cells of the so-called UOC-MP” in exchanges, Yusov responded that the case of Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician who was deported to Russia in a prisoner exchange in September, shows that Ukraine is ready to use “the most creative approaches to bring its citizens home. Any opportunities … Ukraine will definitely use.”
Unsurprisingly, the proposal to exchange Ukrainians for Ukrainians, tearing priests away from their families and homes, caused bewilderment in the Church.
Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, Speaker for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church wrote on Telegram:
So no one was detained. There were inspections, which resulted in no one being detained.
And how does it feel to tear the clergy of the UOC, who are citizens of Ukraine, who were born in Ukraine and have lived here all their lives, away from their families and flock and send them to the Russian Federation?
Some citizens of Ukraine (clergymen) should be replaced with other citizens of Ukraine (soldiers)?
Or is this just preparing public opinion for some further steps?
P. S. By the way, do they also plan to send collaborators from among civil servants, law enforcement officers, and employees of other industries to the Russian Federation?