As the Russian president signed a bill to annex Crimea on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the peninsula has been experiencing what a Church official calls 'total persecution,' reports the Catholic News Agency.
'At this moment all Ukrainian Greek Catholic life in Crimea is paralysed,' Fr Volodymyr Zhdan, Chancellor of the Stryi Eparchy in western Ukraine, told CNA. From 2006 to 2010, Fr Zhdan served as Chancellor of the Odesa-Krym Exarchate, which encompassed both the mainland port city of Odesa and the Crimean peninsula.
Since late February, the peninsula has seen the emergence of pro-Russian troops, who have taken control of its airports, parliament, and telecommunication centres.
Referring to the kidnapping of three Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests in Crimea by pro-Russian forces over the weekend, Fr Zhdan stressed that one such case could be called a mistake, but that 'multiple kidnappings are not an accident.'
On March 15, Fr Mykola Kvych, a naval chaplain stationed in Sevastopol, was detained immediately after celebrating a parastas, a memorial prayer service for the dead. The following day Fr Bohdan Kosteskiy of Yevpatoria and Fr Ihor Gabryliv of Yalta were also reported missing.
Later that night, all three were said to be alive and safe, with Fr Kvych confirming that he had escaped to the mainland of Ukraine with the help of parishioners.
FULL STORY Ukrainian Catholics experiencing 'total persecution' in Crimea (CNA)