In Memory: Ihor Kozlovskyy, renowned Ukrainian religious scholar and former Russian hostage
Ihor Kozlovskyy, world-renowned religious scholar and Ukrainian patriot has died suddenly in Kyiv aged 69. Over recent years, he had tirelessly spoken out in defence of Russian political prisoners as well as those, like him, who had been seized and held hostage in occupied Donbas. He commanded huge respect, and his passing on 6 September is an immeasurable loss.
Ihor Kozlovskyy was from Donetsk and was well-known both in Ukraine, and abroad. He had earlier served as the President of the Centre for Religious Studies and International Spiritual Relations, and had worked at the Philosophy Faculty of Donetsk Technical University before Russia’s effective seizure of power.
He took part in the huge pro-Ukrainian demonstrations at the beginning of Russia’s military aggression in early 2014 and played a leading role in the Prayer Marathon for Peace and Ukrainian Unity in the centre of Donetsk, attended by representatives of almost all faiths. At a book presentation about the Prayer Marathon in 2018, he spoke of this ““resistance through prayer to the Russian invasion and the armed formations which in 2014 united Catholics and Protestants, believers from the Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and Muslims under the Ukrainian flag”, calling it a “phenomenon of our modern history that has yet to be fully understood”
The Prayer Marathon continued for 158 days, until it became simply too dangerous. By the time it ended, 16 of the participants had been taken captive at various times, with five of them subjected to mock executions and, in some cases, to savage torture.
Ihor Kozlovskky had stayed in Donetsk even after it became evidently dangerous because of his elder son, Sviatoslav, who was partially paralyzed and had Down Syndrome. The armed ‘security service’ men from the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR] who burst into the family’s home on 26 January 2016, would have understand that, by taking Ihor Kozlovskyy away, they were also torturing his son and placing his life in danger.
Ihor Kozlovskyy was held hostage for almost two years, being freed only in the first major exchange of prisoners on 27 December 2017. One of the absurd ‘charges’ against the religious scholar was that he had taken part in the Prayer Marathon. Although his pro-Ukrainian position would have already been enough to make him a target in the Russian proxy ‘republic’, he was also seized around the same time as specially orchestrated ‘protests’ against what the Russian proxy ‘republics’ called ‘sects’, otherwise known as any faiths except the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate.
After having imprisoned him already for over a year, the Russian proxy ‘republic’ staged a ‘trial’ and sentenced him to nearly three years’ imprisonment. The kangaroo ‘DPR military court’ found him ‘guilty’ of possessing two grenades which were claimed to have been found in his apartment. At the time, Oleksandr Kozlovskyy explained that this so-called ‘court’ had called the harsh sentence justified because his father was deemed to be “ideologically unsound”.
Although he later said that, unlike many other hostages, he had not been tortured, his imprisonment in appalling conditions would, undoubtedly, have taken a huge toll on his state of health. Despite this, he played a very active role in seeking the release of Russia’s other political prisoners, hostages and prisoners of war, and in demanding justice for those responsible for grave war crimes and atrocities. In his first interview after his release, he said that many in Donbas wanted a return to Ukraine, but were afraid. He also described the ‘research’ that he had used his imprisonment to carry out into the information warfare used to try to indoctrinate people in occupied territory.
Ihor Kozlovskyy was quite simply a wonderful person, and this is a huge loss for Ukraine and for all of us.
Deepest sympathy to his family.
Світла пам'ять Eternal Memory