UKRAINE: Priest Fatally Tortured; Others Facing Deportation

05 March 2024

Source: Forum 18, The Voice of the Martyrs Canada

Members of the Russian occupation forces seized Father Stepan Podolchak on 13 February. The Christian leader had been serving as the abbot of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in Kalanchak, a village located within the Russian-occupied Kherson Region. Taking him away with a bag over his head, the soldiers insisted that he go with them for questioning. Two days later, Father Stepan’s battered body was found on the village street. Reports state that he had also suffered a bullet wound to the head.

Russian officials now controlling the area have refused to take any action in response to the church leader’s tragic death. When Forum18 representatives contacted the local police, they were simply told to “forget about it.” The occupying Russians have frequently placed pressure on priests who refuse to leave the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and join churches under the Moscow Patriarchate. As a result, some priests have been abducted or taken into captivity by Russian forces.

For example, two priests from the Russian-occupied Donetsk Region, Father Khristofor Khrimli and Father Andri Chui, were both convicted of “conducting missionary activities” in September 2023. As a result of their convictions, Russian officials ordered that the Christians be deported from “Russia”. Since Russia now lays claim to Ukraine’s Donetsk Region, the men are unable to return to their homes.

Father Khristofor and Father Andri are now caught in a situation where they are to be deported, but their destination has not yet been determined. Russian officials will send them to Latvia if the two believers are in agreement. However, the Christian leaders have refused this option since they are Ukrainians. The men have also been offered Russian citizenships, which would allow them to return to Donetsk. Yet, wanting to retain their true citizenship as Ukrainians, they have refused this proposal as well. In the meantime, the Christian leaders are being held at a deportation centre in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.


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    Pray for them

    Please uphold the members of Father Stepan Podolchak's family and church community as they mourn this tragic loss, praying that they will sense the Lord's comforting presence especially near to them.

    May all our Christian brothers and sisters in this war-torn nation serve as agents of God's peace, demonstrating the love of His Son Jesus to those around them.

    Pray that the Lord will also provide protection, wisdom, favour and guidance to His people – especially those residing within the occupied regions of Ukraine – as they determine how to carry on their lives and ministries in the midst of the ongoing political conflict.

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