Fr. Viktor Zemlianoy: SBU worked off OCU’s order in the case against me

Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy spoke about charges against him. Photo: video screenshot

Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy spoke about the charges against him, falsifications of SBU experts and ex-official of the Ministry of Culture Andrei Yurash in his case.

On October 7, 2019, Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy, head of the Department for Interfaith Conflict Resolution at the Rovno Eparchy of the UOC, commented in an interview with First Cossack on the start of a criminal investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation against Andrei Yurash, ex-director of the Ministry of Culture for Religions and Nationalities.

According to Fr.Viktor, a case was opened against him under Article 111 of the Criminal Code – “High Treason”, Article 161 – Incitement to Religious Conflict and Article 300 – Distribution of Illegal Literature”.

He emphasized that SBI investigators offered him to partially admit his guilt under these articles and promised him "that there will be fines and other minor things” – this was done in order to discredit the clergy of the UOC.

The priest said he had refused to do so and began the struggle to protect his rights, honor and dignity.

The lawyers, who began to conduct their investigation and turn to various authorities, found out that the prosecution was initiated upon the results of the SBU examination which showed that, according to the investigators, the books found at the priest’s dwelling and the films of Arkady Mamontov, in which they used interviews with Fr. Viktor, allegedly contain statements that offend honor and dignity of the Kiev Patriarchate.

An independent examination was carried out which established that the materials analyzed by the investigators did not contain any rhetoric aimed at inciting religious strife.

Also, as a result of the lawyer's investigation, it became clear that the Ministry of Culture’s conclusion that the literature and the priest’s statements were aimed at inciting interfaith hatred served as a reference point for the investigation. The conclusion was signed by Andrei Yurash, the then head of the Department for Religions and Nationalities at the Ministry of Culture.

Lawyers have made an inquiry on the legality of the conclusions of the SBU experts, as well as those of Andrei Yurash. It turned out that the ex-head of the Department did not have the right to sign a conclusion and did not have the authority to act so basically.

Afterwards Fr. Viktor was notified that the SBI had opened an investigation against Andrei Yurash.

The priest said that under Article 111 of the Criminal Code “High Treason”, the charges against him have already been dropped and the case is closed.

“After the shift of power there is some relief,” the cleric says. “This suggests that seizures of temples and incitement to sectarian strife were ordered by the representatives of the Kiev Patriarchate – now it is the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). And they collaborated with the special services in this respect, since article 111 was opened with only one purpose – so that article 161 and article 300 would be investigated by the SBU since these articles do not fall within their competence.”

Now, according to him, the case has been transferred to the police being authorized to make an inquiry into cases opened under Articles 161 and 300.

“We conclude that the seizure of temples in the Rovno region and the incitement to interfaith hatred was explicitly initiated by the authorities together with the OCU. We hope that now all this will calm down and will be considered in the courts in a legal manner. As far as human relations are concerned, we will be able to right a wrong in terms of the believers of our Church,” the priest says.

He emphasized that since 2016 he has constantly informed international organizations about facts of violation of the rights of believers.

“Today there is a certain response; we have recently returned from Geneva where we participated in a regular session on human rights; we spoke there, presented our report on gross violations of the rights of the UOC believers,” he said and added that the UN and others international human rights mechanisms are informed on a regular basis on the situation with the rights of the UOC believers in Ukraine by the head of the UOC Mission to International Organizations, Bishop Victor (Kotsaba) of Baryshevka.

“International organizations are interested in clarifying the situation, therefore they fix, monitor and get their investigators to look into that. Two UN investigators visited us in Rovno region to study this issue and, as far as I know, in the conclusion of their investigations, although not yet made public, these violations were recorded – namely that the rights of the UOC believers are violated and not only in our region,” concluded the cleric.

Recall, the State Bureau of Investigation opened a criminal proceeding for official forgery against the ex-official of the Ministry of Culture, Andrei Yurash, in the case of Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy.

As reported by the UOJ, previously Archpriest Viktor Zemlianoy, head of the Department for Interfaith Conflict Regulation at the Rovno Eparchy of the UOC, was handed another subpoena to the SBU which was to inform him on a change of suspicion in the framework of criminal proceedings, instituted against the clergyman 2 years ago, whose term expired on August 15, 2019.

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