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Ukraine handed over at least two priests to Russia in exchange for prisoners of war

The news of the exchange had already circulated last December on Russian Telegram channels, and was confirmed in an interview with "Radio Svovoda" by Andrey Yusov, spokesman for the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry

© Agenzia Nova - Reproduction reserved

THEUkraine handed over to the Russian Armed Forces at least two orthodox priestsi, getting Ukrainian prisoners of war in return. This was reported by Brigadier General Vasily Malyuk, director of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), in an interview published yesterday, Friday 21 April, by the "Interfaks-Ukraina" agency. Malyuk spoke of Andiy Pavlenko, a priest of Lysichansk, a city of over one hundred thousand inhabitants located in the Luhansk region, now occupied by Russian forces. The religious, belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which remained under the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for "high treason". On December 14, Pavlenko was handed over to the Russian military in exchange for 28 prisoners of war, one of whom was a US citizen. According to Malyuk, the priest was welcomed by Evgenij Prigozhin, owner of the Russian company of mercenaries "Wagner".

The news of the exchange had already circulated last December on Russian Telegram channels, and was confirmed in an interview with "Radio Svovoda" by Andrey Yusov, spokesman for the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The US citizen, according to Yusov, was neither a soldier nor a mercenary, but an activist captured in Kherson by the occupying Russian troops. Details of the second exchange and the identity of the second priest handed over to Russian forces were not disclosed by Malyuk. Since last year, according to the head of the SBU, criminal proceedings have been initiated against 61 Orthodox religious who remained loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate. Ukrainian courts have already handed down criminal sentences against seven priests who refused to transfer to the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Another 19 religious were deprived of Ukrainian nationality. "I have already said it before - said the general - the cassock and the censer are not aggravating but they do not exempt from criminal responsibility and do not guarantee indulgences". Several temples belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church linked to the Moscow Patriarchate, including the monastery complex of the Kiev Caves, were seized by the authorities and handed over to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

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