Ukraine targets canonical Church rep after he informed international group about persecution of UOC

Kiev, April 15, 2024

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On April 10, His Eminence Metropolitan Augustine of Bila Tserkva and Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich, deputy head of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, met with representatives of the Conference of European Churches at the Kiev Theological Academy.

The UOC clergy informed the visiting delegation about the ecclesiastical situation in Ukraine, especially conveying its position on draft law No. 8371, with which the government intends to ban the Orthodox Church on the territory of Ukraine.

Two days later, the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) went to search Fr. Nikolai’s house in the Kiev Province. He was notified of suspicion for the same charges that Ukraine uses against all UOC clerics it targets: inciting religious enmity (meaning he is against the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine”), and justifying Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The SBU believes that while overseeing UOC parishes abroad, Fr. Nikolai, “under the guise of the supposed spiritual guardianship of Ukrainian immigrants, spread the propaganda narratives of the Russian Federation.”

The Security Service also reports that it found various Russian documents in his possession, “which indicates that he may have citizenship of the aggressor state.”

“I reject any accusations regarding my alleged wrongdoings and consider them to be groundless and absurd... At the same time, I would like to note that my patriotic position is known to everybody,” Fr. Nikolai said.

Concerning the Russian documents, Fr. Nikolai explained that long before the war, he had studied at the Moscow Theological Academy, and thus he had a Russian library card, registration, and insurance policy. Concerning the photo of a document from the Russian Diplomatic Academy, Fr. Nikolai explained that he took an entry-level English course through the institution.

Fr. Nikolai emphasizes that he has never had Russian citizenship.

Regarding the accusation that UOC parishes abroad are used to spread pro-Kremlin narratives, Fr. Nikolai explained that the decision to more actively open parishes abroad was made at the same Council at which the UOC separated itself from the Moscow Patriarchate, and that these parishes serve precisely those who left Ukraine because of the war.

The Western European Vicariate of the UOC issued a statement in defense of Fr. Nikolai, emphasizing that, “Archpriest Nikolai Danilevich is a devoted patriot of Ukraine, which he never hid, and expressed his consistent pro-Ukrainian position, both in public speeches and in private communications.” The statement notes that Fr. Nikolai has repeatedly expressed such positions on social media.

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