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4 March, 2019

Detained Ukrainian church archbishop released in Crimea

Authorities in the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula have released the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the region after briefly detaining him, a Russian lawyer says

Klyment confirmed his arrest in a phone call with AFP during which he said he was speaking from a police station in Simferopol.

Police did not tell him why he was being held, he said.

Hours later, Russian lawyer Nikolai Polozov wrote on Facebook that Klyment had been released without charges.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kateryna Zelenko had earlier voiced concern over Klyment’s detention and what she called religious freedom violations on the Crimean Peninsula.

"Russian occupants continue their systematic attack on Ukrainian Orthodoxy in Crimea," Zelenko tweeted.

The detention came weeks after the Orthodox Church in Ukraine was granted independence, or autocephaly, ending more than 330 years of Russian religious control in Ukraine.

Russia long opposed such efforts by the Ukrainians for an independent church, which intensified after Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and began supporting separatists shortly thereafter in parts of Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Klyment, who heads the Orthodox mission to help victims of human rights violations and persons deprived of their freedom, said last month that Crimean authorities were set to revoke a lease on his church because he failed to register the parish in the Russian Federation.

He reportedly planned to attend court hearings on the case of a Ukrainian citizen in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

Pavlo Hryb, who is facing charges of abetting terrorism, has denied any wrongdoing.

His father has argued that the case was Russian retaliation for Internet posts that were openly critical of Russia's interference in Ukraine.

The European Union has called on Moscow to release Hryb and other Ukrainian citizens “illegally detained” both in Russia and in Crimea.

The reason for the arrest on March 3 is not clear.

Archbishop Klyment was detained at a bus station in the Crimean capital of Simferopol, according to a press statement by the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Radio Liberty

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