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Ukraine arrests priest for branding ‘Azov’ Nazis

Kiev has been pursuing a crackdown on the canonical Orthodox church

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has arrested a cleric in the Cherkasy Diocese for allegedly making pro-Russian social media posts and defaming the members of “Azov” as Nazis, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) confirmed on Wednesday.

Ukrainian authorities did not name the suspect, but the SBU had posted on its Telegram channel on Tuesday that it searched the residence of Archpriest Boris Brodovsky, suspecting him of “anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian statements.”

“We tried to contact him, but we can’t get through to him,” Archpriest Georgy Pogranichny of the Cherkasy Diocese told the media. “The SBU officers probably confiscated the phone from Father Boris. We’re already on our way there, we’ll figure out what’s happening.”

According to one Ukrainian outlet, Brodovsky posted “hostile slogans, photographs and videos from pro-Kremlin Internet resources” and the SBU found “prohibited symbols” at his residence. 

Another Ukrainian newspaper, quoting the SBU, said that Brodovsky had “accused Ukrainian defenders of preparing for military provocations in Odessa and called fighters of the Azov special forces unit Nazis.”

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‘Azov’ was a militia founded in 2014 by white supremacist Andrey Biletsky, who hand-picked symbols once used by the SS for the unit’s logo. It was eventually integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces, while keeping the Third Reich iconography.

Brodovsky was also charged with religious discrimination, for trying to “discredit priests of other faiths” in his sermons, and spreading “fake news” that the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cherkasy had been “seized.” The parish was taken over by the government-backed Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in August 2023.

If convicted, he faces up to eight years in prison.

President Vladimir Zelensky’s government launched a crusade against the UOC last year, denouncing the canonical church as an “agent of Moscow.” For months, Ukrainian regions have been seizing UOC property and handing it over to the OCU on a variety of pretexts. Moscow has protested the crackdown as a violation of human rights, to little avail.

The Ukrainian Parliament has prepared a bill to ban the UOC, but the issue appears to have been put on ice after critics warned that such a move would endanger Kiev’s ambition to join the EU.

March 07, 2024 at 12:38AM

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