News from Europe

Ukrainian priest could be imprisoned for 12 years for ‘espionage’

40-year-old Kostiantyn Maksimov, a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, has been charged with espionage under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Father Kostiantyn was detained during the Russian occupation in May last year. He is one of the numerous leaders from various religious communities the Russian occupation forces have killed, tortured, and abducted. The Russians claim that the priest is guilty under Article 276 (“Espionage”) of the Russian Criminal Code.

Father Kostiantyn served as priest in the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the city of Tokmak in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Region. Russian occupation forces arrested him in the southern town of Chongar when he attempted to cross the border of the occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea in May 2023. His whereabouts had been unknown for ten months. 

The Russian Prosecutor’s office claims that Father Kostiantyn used “an internet messenger transmitted to an employee of the Ukrainian security service information with the coordinates of the deployment of Russian air defence technical equipment located in the city and district” between April 2022 and February 2023. They announced the trial on their website on the 29th of March 2024. 

Pro-Russian politician Vladimir Rogov released a statement saying that the priest would be found guilty regardless of the trial’s outcome: “The accomplice of the Ukrainian special services was caught transferring confidential data to his overseers in Kyiv. The information leak threatened the security of Russia and all residents of the Zaporizhzhia Region.”

According to Father Vladimir Saviisky, another local Ukrainian Orthodox Church priest: “This is terrible! But this was to be expected. The Russians threatened me with this also. Had they not deported me, I would have been sitting next to him in a prison cell.”

Russia has illegally imposed its Criminal and Administrative Codes on the parts of Ukraine. They tend to fabricate false charges against those whom they consider enemies of Russia. 

Two Greek Catholic priests, Father Ivan Levytsky and Father Bohdan Heleta, also disappeared in November 2022. They are facing criminal trials under false charges related to weapons, explosives, and allegedly “extremist” texts the Russian occupation forces claim to have found.


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