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Ukrainian archbishop accuses Russia of torturing detained priests

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk

Krysja | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 12/10/22

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk says that the two priests from Berdiansk have been beaten to obtain a confession.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, is accusing Russia of torturing two priests who were detained in late November. The prelate had previously condemned the arrest of the two priests from the Russian occupied town of Berdiansk on charges of terrorism. 


Aleteia previously reported on the arrest of the two clerics of the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary: Father Ivan Levitskyi C.SS.R. and Father Bohdan Heleta C.SS.R., parish priest and chaplain, respectively. The two were apprehended and charged with the possession of firearms and explosives. Furthermore, the Russian forces claim they found terroristic documents that implicate the two priests. 

Immediately after their arrest, Bishop Stepan Meniok of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church decried the detention as “groundless and unlawful.” The prelate stated that both Fr. Levitskyi and Fr. Heleta have been in ministry for over three years and have only ever proclaimed “the word of peace.” 

Bishop Meniok suggested that the Russians who arrested the priests planted the evidence. He noted that both priests were in custody when the search was conducted, leaving ample opportunity for the documents and weapons to be staged. He wrote: 

“At the time of the search of the church building, the adjacent rectory and the technical premises of the parish, both priests were already in custody, which means that they could not control these premises, nor the actions of the Rosguard [National Guard of Russia] in any way,” the bishop further points out in his letter.


Now, The Tablet reports that Major Archbishop Schevchuk has stated that Fr. Levitskyi and Fr. Heleta have been “mercilessly tortured” in attempts by the Russians to extract a confession. The archbishop compared modern Russian tactics to those used by the communist regimes of the USSR: 

“According to the classic repressive methods of Stalinism, they simply beat a confession out of them for a crime they did not commit,” said the archbishop. He added, “They are not guilty. They are priests of Christ: They are only guilty of loving their people – the Church, the people of God.”

According to The Tablet, the arrests are suspected to be retribution for Ukrainian raids on churches which stayed affiliated with the Moscow Patriarch after the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s government has recently placed restrictions on such churches and monasteries, and have conducted raids on their properties. 

Read more at The Tablet. 

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