A priest in Russia’s southeastern Irkutsk region reported one of his longtime parishioners to authorities after the latter criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to reports.
Sergey Kandybin, a rector at a church in the village of Telma, filed a report against former Usolye-Sibirskoye city deputy Sergey Uglyanitsa to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) out of “fear for the country’s security,” Meduza reported.
An unidentified man Kandybin referred to as a “blogger” visited the church official on April 11 and expressed his objection to one of the priest’s previous sermons that touched on the war in Ukraine.
Kandybin had blamed the conflict on the United States and claimed that the humanitarian disaster in Ukraine was being exacerbated by “certain people who have committed atrocities in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq and Syria from the overseas,” according to the report.
However, the blogger argued that “the war is one of aggression” and that Russia’s leaders and military were responsible for it.
Kandybin claimed he attempted to change the blogger’s mind by appealing to his sense of patriotism, but the man responded by expressing his desire for a Ukrainian victory and to see the Ukrainian army marching through Moscow’s iconic Red Square on television.
The priest allegedly attempted to calm the man and engage in dialogue but was met with hostility.
“He proceeded to keep talking about his wish to see a Ukrainian counteroffensive as soon as possible. Our conversation reached a dead end, and he said to me, ‘I’m going to light candles for Ukraine’s victory and get out of your church,'” Kandybin told the FSB.
“I have no idea who he is, this Uglyanitsa. He came in, sniffed around, peppered me with questions, and gave some unsavory speeches. What if he had come from Ukraine? What if he was a saboteur? If he allows himself to say those things out loud, it means somebody needs to deal with him! So what’s the problem with what I wrote? I did a good thing!” he said.
Russian law enforcement launched a preliminary investigation into Uglyanitsa after Kandybin’s denunciation.
The former deputy was charged on Oct. 12 with inciting hatred against the military, police and authorities as well as against “a wide range of people and representatives of the government, specifically Russian President Vladimir Putin,” for posts and comments he made on social media.
Uglyanitsa, for his part, told the independent Russian outlet Mediazona that much of Kandybin’s account was false.
He was not a blogger and never told Kandybin he was one. Uglyanitsa has also been a parishioner of Kandybin’s church for 10 years and was not unknown to the priest.
Uglyanitsa claimed he never looked forward to seeing the Ukrainian army in Red Square.
“I asked, ‘What will you do, Holy Father, if the Ukrainian Armed Forces hold a parade on Red Square and take Moscow or the Kremlin? What will happen to you then if you openly support violence? Don’t you understand what you’re being pushed into? In the end, you won’t be in the Russian Orthodox Church.’ And I didn’t light a candle for [Ukrainian victory]. I lit a candle for the souls of everyone who has died in this war,” Uglyanitsa said.
A judge reclassified Uglyanitsa’s case this month under Russia’s law against “discrediting” the army. The case has been dropped due to the statute of limitations expiring.