Ukrainian priest detained by Russian forces found dead

(A cemetery for deceased Ukrainians in the Russia/Ukraine war)

A Ukrainian priest, Rev. Stepan Podolchak, who was detained by Russian occupation forces, has been found dead with his body bruised. In an unconfirmed report by a watchdog group, Forum 18, it was said that he was shot in the head.

The 59-year-old, who was a part of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, went missing on February 13. It was said that Russian occupation forces took him from Kalanchak (his village).

His battered body was discovered by a passer-by and it was deposited in the morgue. Contacts were made to identify his body by his family. After the process was done, his family laid his body to rest.

The Kyiv Independent reported that an official from the deceased’s village had made a statement on Facebook saying, “Today it has became known that the occupiers tortured the brightest person I was lucky enough to meet in my life.

“Stepan Yaroslavovych Podolchak was faithful to God, pure in soul, honest and fair! Like an angel who came down to Earth! It is impossible to believe and we will never forgive!”

Forum 18 noted that the bishop of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s Kherson and Tavria Diocese, Rev. Nikodim Kulygin, had laid an allegation against Russian occupation forces for torturing Podolchak to death.

Serhy Danilov, a Kyiv-based anthropologist said that the deceased’s bruised body revealed that he was handcuffed. He was quoted as saying: “Fr. Stepan was someone who felt he couldn’t abandon his people. The Russian police repeatedly pressured Fr. Stepan to move to the Moscow Patriarchate. He told them he couldn’t betray his oath and community.”

The head of the Kalanchak village military administration, Svitlana Fomina, also shared a similar thought that the deceased priest experienced torture.

He told the Kyiv-based Centre for Journalistic Investigations, “The Russians tortured him to death. He was always pro-Ukrainian, conducted all services in Ukrainian, and prayed for Ukraine, even under occupation. Apparently, because of this, the Russians took away the most valuable thing that a person has – life.”

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