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ICC Note: The ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the Crimea peninsula has captured world headlines for the past several weeks. Now, a new religious dimension appears to be taking root, as pro-Russian forces have ordered Ukrainian Greek Catholic clergy to abandon their congregations in the Crimea and leave the area. The Church has decided to remain, regardless of the potential risks. On Saturday, it was reported that Father Mykola Kvych had been abducted by pro-Russian forces. His whereabouts remain unknown. 
3/15/2014 Ukraine (BosNewsLife) – A Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest was kidnapped Saturday, March 15, by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, adding to concerns the tensions may turn into a religious and ethnic conflict, church sources said.
Priest Mykola Kvych, a church leader and Ukrainian military chaplain, was abducted after celebrating the liturgy in the port city of Sevastopol, the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, according to church officials familiar with the case.
“Every abduction is a terrible event for everybody involved,” added Bishop Borys Gudziak, the Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy in published remarks. “It’s a gross violation of human rights and God-given human dignity,” he told Vatican Radio.
Parishioners who were at the service, and his wife, reportedly confirmed the kidnapping but did not immediately provide more details.
The kidnapping came shortly after priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) received oral and written threats ordering them to leave the Crimea or face consequences.
However the church leaders decided “not to leave their flock”, especially at a time when Russian forces have taken control over Crimea, the bishop said.
“Our priests and bishops have been very close to the people,” Bishop Borys said. “We’ve been inspired by the example of Our Lord [Who] went a long distance from fellowship with the Father to incarnate Himself and be in our reality.”
He said they have also been inspired by the words of Pope Francis “who said a pastor needs to have the smell of his sheep.” The priest added that “our pastors have been with the people, and they’re today with the people enduring this occupation in the Crimea.”
With the whereabouts of Priest Mykola unknown, Bishop Borys appealed “to the authorities of the Russian Orthodox Church” who he claimed have “direct or indirect supported…occupation of Crimea” to do “everything in their power to have Father Kvych released and to stop the persecution of Catholic priests and Catholic faithful on this peninsula.”
Authorities linked to, then president, Viktor Yanukovich also threatened to close the UGCC as its priests had been seen praying with anti-Yanukovich protesters. The rallies eventually led to bloodshed and the the ouster of the president.
It was not immediately clear later Saturday, March 15, where the abducted priest was held, church sources said. “His cell is not responding , even though the phone is not turned off,” said the Religious Information Service of Ukraine.
The abduction comes ahead of Sunday’s controversial referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia.

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