Nothing is sacred for the pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine. A Russian Orthodox Church Abroad priest, who did not want to be named, said the rebels hide mortars behind the Orthodox churches.
“Gunmen in Slovyansk hide mortars behind orthodox churches and shoot from there at positions of the Ukrainian Army. And when, in response, the Ukrainian artillery strikes on militants firing positions, naturally, it shells and sometimes damages churches,” the priest said in Slovyansk, as reported by Info Resist.
The priest told Info Resist that the rebels did not follow Kiev’s ceasefire truce on June 21, choosing instead to attack the Ukrainian army from Mount Karachun. He also said the attack was coordinated with Moscow, and all the information was prepared in advance for the Russian media. He did not provide evidence to substantiate his claims.
But the priest said his unit is attacked every night by the rebels.
“This seriously complicates fighting for Ukrainian soldiers, who are forced to restrain retaliation of the enemy fire, not to hit the church,” he said. “However, it is not possible not to retaliate at all; too many Ukrainian soldiers died from shots from the church. As a result, unfortunately, some strikes hit the church.”
Religion is a touchy subject in east Ukraine. The rebels said the state religion of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” is Russian Orthodox, and priests from other sects claim severe abuse because they are not members. On May 31, Catholic Bishop Marian Buczek said Catholics are too scared to attend Mass in Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Local Catholics are living in conditions of great danger — the terrorists are doing what they like and shooting at people indiscriminately,” Buczek asserted. “People can do nothing but stay at home and await better times, like everyone else. In places where there’s shooting, the Catholic and Orthodox churches have simply stopped functioning.”
Father Sergei Kosyak with the Gospel Church described his experience with the pro-Russians in Donetsk to The Telegraph. They kidnapped him when he held a peace rally for Ukraine and wielded a Ukrainian flag. The men and woman dragged him to the DPR headquarters where they beat him. A sympathetic Protestant man rescued him.