On December 5, Rivne region branch of the SBU (State Security Service of Ukraine, -112 International) interrogated 12 priests from the Rivne and Sarny (Rivne region) eparchies of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate. They appear to be the witnesses, Interfax Ukraine reported.
"Today, 12 priests were invited to be interrogated as witnesses within the criminal inquiry opened by the SBU's Rivne branch," press secretary Inna Iliuchok told the news agency on December 5.
In turn, the Rivne diocese said on its website that the priests were interrogated as witnesses in criminal cases on high treason and infringement on the equality of citizens depending on their race, nationality, religion, disability, and other criteria, as stated in the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
"Over ten priests were summoned, so the interrogation took quite a while," the statement said.
Bishop Pimen of the Rivne eparchy believes that the accusations against them and their church are false and offensive.
"Our priests did and will carry on to serve God and the people of Ukraine. And the accusations thrown at us and our church are false and offensive. All of us, the bishops and priests of the Rivne region, are Ukrainians and the patriots of our country, and neither we have done nor we are doing anything that could divide or harm Ukraine," Bishop Pimen says.
As we reported earlier, after the searches in eight buildings of several eparchies of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Zhytomyr region, police found the evidence of an organized network distributing materials inciting religious discord at the premises of the priests.
Earlier, Ukraine’s Security Service conducted searches at the place of residence of Pavlo, the archpriest of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, within the probe of stirring up religious hatred, which is a subject to Criminal Code of Ukraine on November 3.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate struggled for the autocephaly since the country gained independence in 1991. For his firm stance in this regard, Patriarch Filaret, the current leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, was stripped of his orders in 1992, as the Russian Orthodox Church imposed the anathema on him. Most recently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate lifted it from him. This decision, and the subsequent decision to grant Ukraine Tomos outraged the Russian Orthodox Church, which already promised 'a tough and decisive response.'
On Thursday, November 29, the Synodus of Ecumenical Patriarchate released a communique about the preliminary draft project of the statute of the future Ukrainian Church.