A shocking incident showing a Ukrainian priest being attacked by a Russian priest and beaten with a cross during a soldier’s funeral in central Ukraine was caught on video and leaked online this week.
The altercation was reported by local activist Serhiy Timkov to have taken place on July 22nd, as a priest of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) was delivering a eulogy at the funeral of fallen Ukrainian soldier, Oleksandr Vasyliovych.
The attack is said to have been triggered by a comment made by the Ukrainian priest claiming that the Russian Orthodox Church was helping the occupiers.
In the Vinnytsia region, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) attacked a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC)
A supporter of Putin's priest Gundyaev hit his "colleague" with a cross because the representative of the UOC accused the ROC of helping the occupiers. pic.twitter.com/FJwBdknysY
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) July 28, 2022
The full footage of the incident shows the Russian priest rushing to the podium and trying to rip the cross from the Ukrainian priest’s neck before striking him with the cross he was holding in his hand.
The ugly fight was broken up by members of the military, who pulled the Russian priest away before the funeral service could continue.
Ukrainian Orthodox priests’ criticism of Patriarch Kirill over war
The branch of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church that remained loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate after the 2019 schism between them said in May that it would break with the Russian church over the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia had been widely criticized for backing Vladimir Putin’s military campaign in Ukraine, as he called on supporters to rally to fight Moscow’s “external and internal enemies.”
In April, hundreds of Ukrainian Orthodox priests signed an open letter calling for Kirill to face a religious tribunal over the war in Ukraine.
According to the priests, it had become impossible to serve the Patriarch with a clear conscience in these circumstances.