Ukrainian priests flee Crimea

Threatened clerics seek safety

Priests of the Ukrainian Catholic Church have begun to flee Crimea as pressure on them by Russian authorities mount.

On March 20, The Irish Catholic reported on moves by clerics to move their families to the safer mainland Ukraine as Russia tightened its grip on the Crimean peninsula. The action there saw the abductions of at least three priests.

Now, however, as threats and intimidation of clerics continues, facilitating the takeover of parishes and churches by the Russian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Catholic priests have begun to move across the border for their own safety.

In a message to Catholic News Service, one priest, Fr Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, said the Russian security service, the FSB (formerly the KGB), had summoned him for questioning and sought his attitude to the new order following the contested referendum of March 16 for Russian rule.

“The situation remains very serious, and we don’t know what will happen,” Fr Milchakovsky said. “The new government here is portraying us all as nationalists and extremists.”

He accused Russia of actively attempting to drive both ethnic Ukrainians and their priests out of Crimea, but added that the evacuation of priests at this point is a temporary measure.