An Orthodox priest in Kiev is in a critical condition after being shot twice in the head Saturday night, Ukrainian and Russian media report.
Roman Nikolaev, a priest in the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was shot outside his home in northern Kiev late on Saturday night, and is listed in critical condition.
A spokesman for the Church told Russian news radio service RSN that Nikolaev was found by a neighbor on the stairway of his apartment building, is in critical condition, and “cannot give any evidence” as to the identity of his assailants.
The spokesman noted that in his opinion, the attack, committed by two unknown men, was unlikely to have been connected to Nikolaev’s work.
“The attack did not take place in a temple. Nikolaev served as the parish priest of a church which I believe has not yet been completed. He was ordained a priest two years ago.”
One version of events, suggested by the press service of Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, is that Nikolaev may have been shot after getting in the way of apartment robbers. Ukrainian police have launched an investigation into the attack.
Ukraine is home to three major denominations of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, including the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (believed to be the largest religious body in Ukraine, with the greatest number of parishes, churches and communities), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate, created in 1992, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Following the Maidan coup d’état last year, relations between the Moscow and Kievan patriarchates have declined considerably. In February, UOC Kiev Patriarch Filaret made headlines by urging the United States to send lethal weapons to fuel Kiev’s military campaign against independence and autonomy supporters in Eastern Ukraine. In April, the patriarch was reported to have held nearly 20 meetings with various NATO and EU leaders in a bid to garner European support amid the ongoing conflict in Donbass.