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Fr Bohdan Geleta (left) and Fr Ivan Levitsky (CNS/Ukrainian Catholic Church)

Two disappeared Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests seized by Russian forces from their church in Berdyansk in November 2022 are possibly in a Russian-operated labour camp in occupied Ukraine, according to a human rights information service. Source: OSV News.

Redemptorist Fathers Ivan Levitsky and Bohdan Geleta, who served at the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in Berdyansk, may be in detention at Russia’s Kalinin Labor Camp in Horlivka, located in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, which is currently under Russian occupation.

“This is the closest I think we’ve come to actually confirming at least where they are,” Felix Corley of Forum 18 — a news service that partners with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in defending freedom of religion, thought and conscience — told OSV News.

The Donetsk Exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to which the priests belong, told Forum 18 on June 3 that it has received no news of the two priests.

Both priests had refused to leave their parishioners following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, which continued attacks launched in 2014 against Ukraine. 

Shortly after Fr Levitsky and Fr Geleta were captured, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said he had received “the sad news that our priests are being tortured without mercy”.

Mr Corley reported that Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s human rights commissioner, claimed on Telegram on May 23 that Russia had proposed exchanging two unnamed Catholic priests for two Orthodox priests.

“I recently visited the Catholic priests in their place of detention and made sure that the conditions corresponded to international standards,” Ms Moskalkova claimed, without indicating the date and location of the alleged meeting. 

The 47-year-old Fr Levitsky and 59-year-old Fr Geleta are the only two Catholic priests known to be in Russian detention, said Mr Corley.

“We had heard rumours before that at least one of them was there in that camp,” Mr Corley told OSV News. “So it does seem to me that that’s the most likely place where they were, at least at the beginning of May, when (Moskalkova) was there.”


Nightmare: Disappeared Ukrainian priests may be in Russian labor camp (By Gina Christian, OSV News)