Men in balaclavas cut off locks and seized UOC church in Popelnia

The seizure was being watched by law enforcers and the “crimson berets”. Photo: UOJ

Supporters of the OCU seized the St. Nicholas Church in Popelnia, Zhytomyr region. 

On September 22, 2022, OCU supporters, along with their "clergy", seized the St. Nicholas Church in Popelnia of the Zhytomyr Eparchy. 

According to the parishioners of the temple, police officers and representatives of the territorial defence forces were observing the seizure passively. 

"They do not let us into the temple, even though we showed documents that we are community members. They only let in supporters of the OCU. Men in balaclavas and camouflage broke down the doors to the temple with a sledgehammer, and then we saw that they sawed down the side altar doors," UOC believers say. 

At the entrance to the temple, there were also armed men in balaclavas at the gates who claimed that the temple was allegedly mined and, therefore, UOC worshippers were not allowed in.

The faithful said that the morning liturgy was being celebrated in the temple, so at the time of the seizure there was a priest and about ten parishioners inside.

According to the parishioners, representatives of local authorities – regional deputy Yevhen Zhabokrytskyi and the head of the district – also watched the seizure, but they just "smirked and left”. Two buses of “crimson berets” were involved in the "operation". The local military commissar also controlled the seizure. 

It should be noted that the seizure of the church took place during an air raid. 

The believers also reported that a criminal case has been opened against the official who illegally re-registered the community.

Currently, the UOC congregation owns both the land plot and the church building.

At a parish meeting on 16 May, the St. Nicholas Church community pledged allegiance to the UOC and to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry; the corresponding protokol of the meeting was signed by the ruling bishop of the Zhytomyr Eparchy.

However, as reported, on May 29, supporters of the OCU held their meeting, at which they voted for the "transfer" of the community.

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