Vienna, - Dozens of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) are leaving Ukraine in fear of persecutions, the head of the sector for interreligious liaisons at the Russian Orthodox Church's Synodal Department for External Church Relations Priest Dimitry Safonov told on Monday.
"There are dozens of priests who had to leave Ukraine. The exact statistic is currently impossible. They are pressured into leaving Ukraine. Their families are getting death threats, they themselves are facing the threat of physical violence," he told an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conference on combating the intolerance and discrimination towards Christians in Vienna.
A total of 77 churches and monasteries have been damaged or demolished during the military conflict in eastern Ukraine, the priest said.
In western Ukraine, religious crimes are manifested in the seizure of UOC MP churches, Father Dmitry said.
"By now there have been credible reports about 19 churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church having been violently seized by the so-called "Kiev Patriarchate". This religious organization was formed in Ukraine in 1992 and has not been recognized by any of the Orthodox Churches worldwide," the priest said.
All actions against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church "are motivated precisely by religious and national hatred," he said.
Earlier the UOC MP chancellor Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol and Brovary complained to the Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko about the seizure of the churches.
Nine UOC churches have been destroyed and another 77 damaged as a result of the hostilities in Donbass, which has 1,100 Orthodox churches and 17 monasteries, he said.