2019-02-18 17:45:00

UOC Metropolitan held in Donbass on suspicion of separatism (updated)

Kiev, February 18, Interfax - Metropolitan Mitrofan of Gorlovka and Slavyansk was held at a checkpoint in Donbass on Monday and escorted to a police station.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church bishop was returning from a prayer service he had just performed at one of the diocese's churches in Liman District, the UOC information and education department said.

He was stopped at the checkpoint in the village of Malinovka and then taken to the Slavyansk town police department.

Initially, the bishop was barred from seeing a lawyer or other clergymen. When the local congregation learnt of his detention, they and the clergy gathered outside the police building to pray.

"Soon, a police official emerged in front of those assembled and said that Metropolitan Mitrofan had been held on suspicion of separatism. However, the police released him a while later and he drove off in the direction of the diocesan administration," the UOC said.

A national police spokesman, Yaroslav Trakalo, said the police had detained UOC Metropolitan Mitrofan and questioned him "in connection with the presence in their databases of the information about his possible links with people involved with illegal militias in the DPR [Donetsk people's republic]."

"To prove or disprove these data, the metropolitan was questioned in the presence of a lawyer. We obtained information which could be important for the police work in the Donetsk Region. After that he was released. It is a standard check in such situations," Trakalov said.