Ukrainian Security Service conducted more than 20 searches of Orthodox journalists, hierarchs respond

Kiev, March 15, 2024

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OrthoChristian reported on Wednesday that Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) agents raided the offices of representatives of the Union of Orthodox Journalists (UOJ) and the Legal Defense Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Yesterday, the Union of Orthodox Journalists reported, with reference to the Prosecutor General that more than 20 searches were conducted in four provinces, also involving journalists from the First Cossack outlet and the public union Laity.

The Prosecutor General’s office wrote that the SBU neutralized the “media bloc of the UOC,” allegedly created to destabilized Ukraine. The UOJ notes that the Prosecutor General’s message says nothing about the alleged association with the Russian Security Service (FSB), as was claimed in the earlier SBU statement.

The UOJ published an open appeal to international human rights organizations to respond as they are able to the “detention and persecution” of the journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders. Five people are currently being held in a pre-trial detention center.

“We are being judged for the published facts of crimes against the UOC, their analysis and value judgments on this matter,” writes the UOJ, while Laity and the Center for Legal Defense are being persecuted for fighting to uphold human rights.

The UOJ also writes that it is no coincidence that the arrests were made just before the parliamentary vote a on a bill to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: “We believe that the arrests … were undertaken to conceal and successfully push through the criminal decision that the Ukrainian authorities are preparing in relation to the Church.”

The head of the human rights organization Public Advocacy informed the UN Human Rights Council about the investigation into the journalists on Wednesday.

Lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who is representing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for free, also tied the arrests to the state plans to ban the Church. “They have been choreographed by the SBU to stir up fear and animosity and further divide a country at war, and must be condemned by international press freedom organizations,” he added.

His Eminence Metropolitan Theodosy of Cherkasy, who is also persecuted by the state, called on the faithful to pray for the Orthodox journalists, especially those who are now being held in a detention center.

His Eminence Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye, another target of the state, also commented on the arrests, saying: “He who fears the Truth and fights against it is an accomplice of the devil.”

The UOC’s Diocese of Chernivtsi and Bukovina also issued a call to prayer.

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