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A priest in Ukraine has been caught up in a scandal after being "caught in bed with a minor" amid claims he was set up due to the church's links to Russia.
Archimandrite Nikita posted a video message on social media in which he claimed that agents from the SBU (the Ukrainian security service) undressed and photographed everyone who was in his consistory at the time of a search.
It comes as Ukrainian forces raid church premises amid suggestions priests are promoting pro-Russian views.
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Nikita said: “Those of us in the diocese were awakened from our sleep, taken from our cells, put against the wall, stripped and apparently photographed."
Romania Posts English reports him as adding: "And then, of course, all kinds of obscene details were added…” alleging that the priests were threatened with being shot. Nikita mentioned that he was not afraid of “shootings and death”.
The SBU conducts counterespionage activities within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and Archimandrite Nikita, who was to be ordained diocesan bishop of Ivano-Frankivsk, was targeted.
The SBU explained that the searches were taken as part of a systematic work "to counter the subversive activities of Russian special services in Ukraine".
According to outlet LB.ua, during searches in the Chernivtsi-Bukovyna Diocese of the UOC, the SBU found its secretary in bed with a boy from the local choir.
The journalists also published a photo showing Archimandrite Nikita with a boy in his underwear.
The search from the Diocese of Chernivtsi and Bucovina was said to have lasted 12 hours, and as a result of the investigation “law enforcement officers discovered documents that confirm the presence of Russian citizenship in the management of diocesan structures”.
Correspondence of diocesan leaders with Moscow was also allegedly exposed, in which they receive “methodology” to “hold church services favourable to the large-scale invasion of Ukraine”.
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According to an investigation in Kyiv, representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church were tasked with promoting disinformation about the socio-political situation in Ukraine and the situation at the front.
In particular, “priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were asked to deny the armed aggression of Russia, to speak about the alleged oppression of the Moscow Church.”
During the search, the SBU found “wholesale batches of pro-Kremlin literature praising Russia and calling for support for the occupiers”.
In addition, during the examination of the computers of the diocese leadership, photocopies of the identity cards of some Russian citizens who took part in the hostilities against the Ukrainian troops were found.
“The Lord is the judge of all, if they have evidence, let them prove,” said Archimandrite Nikita.
After the Russian Orthodox Church expressed its support for the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine, 6,000 Ukrainian parishes decided to separate from Moscow, but some remained dependent on Russia.
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