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Amid fears of persecution, bishop rues West’s inaction on Crimea

Catholic World News - March 14, 2014

The leading Latin-rite prelate in Crimea criticized the Western response to the Russian military intervention there.

“The world talks, criticizes Russia and does exactly what Putin expects-- nothing," said Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki of Odessa-Simferopol, according to a Catholic News Service report. “Cutting off Crimea is only the beginning -- it will then be time for Ukraine's eastern and southern counties, and then perhaps the whole country.”

The majority of the residents of Crimea, an autonomous republic within Ukraine, are ethnic Russians. Following the fall of the regime of pro-Moscow Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, Russian troops moved into Crimea.

On March 11, the Crimean parliament declared independence from Ukraine; on March 16, Crimean voters will decide whether Crimea will become part of Russia. Ukrainian Greek Catholics are fearful that annexation will lead to persecution.

“Many have already stopped coming to church, after being branded nationalists and fascists by local provocateurs,” said Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a parish priest in Crimea. “Our church has no legal status in the Russian Federation, so it’s uncertain which laws will be applied if Crimea is annexed. We fear our churches will be confiscated and our clergy arrested.”

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