Not only militants guilty of taking priests prisoner


It has unfortunately become clear that Pastor Alexander Kobzev from the Church of Christ was not, as believed, abducted by Kremlin-backed militants, but by people who identified themselves as being from Right Sector.

Alexander Kobzev was taken away at a checkpoint near Ambrosiyika two weeks ago.  He assumes this was by fighters from the Ukrainian Dnipro Battalion, and then taken to one of the bases. They took his car; money; tablet and mobile phone away from him.  None of these were returned to him.  He thanks God that he was not beaten.

Pastor Sergey Kosyak writes: “It is greatly to be regretted that among ‘defenders’ of Ukraine there are unprincipled people who are no different from others without principles. After false allegations that he was supporting terrorists, he was held in a pit together with other prisoners. In our opinion all of this happened before the pastor did not want to hand over his car to armed people, citing Ukrainian law, and not because they found accreditation as a journalist with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. It is impossible to work in Donetsk without these papers.  However the armed men decided that you mustn’t talk to a person with a weapon the way that the pastor did and as a result he spent two weeks in captivity.  He was released without any apology being given”.

This report is unfortunately, not the only such case in recent weeks. A priest from the Severodonetsk-Starobelsk eparchy, Father Serhiy had an unpleasant run-in with fighters from an Interior Ministry battalion recently.  He did not plan to complain, believing that this was God’s will, that he had done something wrong.  Alexei Svyetikov from Today in Severodonetsk, however, disagreed.  Since the situation could have happened with anybody, he believed that it needed to be written about.

Father Serhiy is the head of another small church far from Severodonetsk and makes the journey on his bicycle.  He was in his priest’s clothes and on the bike when he passed, without problems past a checkpoint on Aug 1.  Around a kilometre and a half down the road he stopped to phone a friend.  He had two phones in his hand, ringing a number from one with the other phone.  A car was driving past and a passenger saw this and decided it was suspicious, that he could be trying to communicate with the militants.

A few minutes later a landrover arrived with some armed men.  One of them hit Father Serhiy in the face, knocking him to the ground, after which they put handcuffs on him.  He asked them to take the bike, or at least hide it, but was told that he would only need the bike in about 15 years.

He was taken to the checkpoint, thrown facedown on the ground, twice hit on the back, once on the spine with a rifle.  They threatened to shoot him and twice shot in the air above his head.  He tried to explain that he knew nothing about the militants.

It took three hours of such treatment before they finally understood that he was not guilty of anything and released him.  They found him a car that could take him back but the bike had already vanished.

Both cases clearly need to be brought to the attention of the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.  There is, unfortunately, no guarantee that there have been no others. 

It is also immensely frustrating that Sergey Kosyak should have received abuse and criticism for his initial report on the abduction of Alexander Kobzev. A day after the storm broke, he has returned to the subject with words that surely deserve to be heeded.

“I love God, people and Ukraine. I labour for the glory of God and for the good of my Homeland. And I love Ukraine so strongly that I will never agree to it remaining as it was, when ‘gold toilets’ called the shots, with venal police, judges and prosecutors. When there was plundering and slackness in the army. For that reason, thieving, ignorance, boorishness and slackness are for terrorists, not for a Ukrainian soldier. For that reason I am still awaiting a reaction from the leadership of the anti-terrorist operation, for them to clean up their ranks.  It is not for such a Ukraine that we are all dying.”

Halya Coynash

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