Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are fleeing Crimea to escape threats of arrest and property seizures, according to a priest in Crimea, reports The Catholic Herald.
'The situation remains very serious, and we don’t know what will happen — the new government here is portraying us all as nationalists and extremists,' said Fr Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a parish rector and military chaplain from Kerch, Crimea, who was speaking to the Catholic News Service just four days after Russia finalised the region’s annexation.
He said that officials from Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, had called him in for questioning about his community and to ask whether he 'recognised the new order.'
Fr Milchakovskyi said that he and his family and at least two-thirds of his parishioners had left Kerch for Ukrainian-controlled territory on the advice of Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych.
'All my parishioners are patriotic Ukrainians who love their Crimean homeland. But Russia is now seeking to drive us out,' he said on Tuesday.
He said Fr Mykola Kvych, pastor of the Dormition of the Mother of God Parish in Sevastopol, Crimea, also fled after being detained and beaten by Russian forces, who accused him of 'sponsoring extremism and mass unrest.'
'During 10 years in Sevastopol, he never said or did anything against Russians,' Fr Milchakovskyi added.
'We’re determined our Church will not close up and abandon its mission, and we hope we’ll be given permits to return. But like others, we’ve had to leave our life and work behind, not knowing when we’ll be back. This is a time of suffering and anxiety.'
FULL STORY Priest: Ukrainian Catholics flee Crimea to escape threats of arrest (The Catholic Herald)