Metropolitan of Moscow church in Ukraine exchanged for Ukrainian defenders

June 26,2024 560
Metropolitan of Moscow church in Ukraine exchanged for Ukrainian defenders

Ionafan (Yeletsky), Metropolitan of Tulchyn and Bratslav of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), was exchanged for Ukrainian military prisoners. On the morning of June 26, the clergyman was handed over to Russian representatives at the border with Belarus. The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill (Gundyayev), requested the exchange of Metropolitan Ionafan, the Ukrainian publication reports.

Earlier, Ionafan had initially requested an exchange but withdrew his request within less than a week, then changed his mind again, as told by Sonia Koshkina,’s chief editor. “Ionafan is not an ordinary metropolitan (although a metropolitan in principle cannot be an average figure). One of the oldest hierarchs of the UOC-MP), a graduate of the Leningrad Theological Academy, where he became close with Gundyayev. Upon returning to Ukraine, he headed the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra after its return to the church,” the journalist said.

Metropolitan Ionafan has been accused several times of embezzling property from the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and numerous church parishes. “The KGB (and Gundyayev, obviously) settled him in Kyiv, where his career skyrocketed in the late 1980s. … In March 1991, despite being a vicar bishop and deputy Ionafan, the UOC Synod removed from office and prohibited from serving. The reason was the embezzlement of Kyiv Pechersk Lavra property on a fantastic scale. He dragged out everything he could from the Lavra, right down to carpets and dishes. … However, when the ROC went to war on Metropolitan Filaret for advocating autocephaly, Ionafan not only quietly ‘rehabilitated’ but also appointed in the new generation of the UOC ‘manager’ and bishop in Sumy,” said Ukrainian religious leader, Metropolitan of Bila Tserkva of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine Yevstratiy (Zorya).

During the searches of the Tulchyn diocese of the UOC-MP, chaired by Ionafan, in October 2022, the Security Service of Ukraine came across numerous Russian propaganda materials – leaflets “Authorities of Russia,” “Decree of the President of Russia on the annexation of Crimea to the Russian Federation,” “Donbass – Russia,” as well as the work “Hymn-prayer for Russia,” authored by the metropolitan himself.

Last year in August, Ionafan was sentenced to 5 years in prison. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suspended the clergyman’s citizenship. This year on June 18, the appeals court upheld the first-instance court’s verdict unchanged. The metropolitan refused the exchange because he did not consider himself a prisoner of war.

Cover: open sources

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