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A Crimea-based priest who was kidnapped on Saturday has been freed.
Fr Mykola Kvych, a military chaplain of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was kidnapped by armed men on Saturday morning in Sevastopol.
Sevastopol police announced the news that he had been freed, which was confirmed by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a Byzantine-rite Church in communion with Rome.
Fr Kvych has left the peninsula and is safe in mainland Ukraine, Vatican Radio reported.
Sources in Ukraine earlier told the Vatican’s News.va service that Fr Mykola Kvych had been abducted by pro-Russian forces after he had celebrated the liturgy.
While awaiting news of the priest's whereabouts, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak suggested that the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church – who he said “have in direct or indirect ways supported these moves for the for the occupation of Crimea” – could help to bring about Fr Kvych’s release “and to stop the persecution of Catholic priests and Catholic faithful on this peninsula”.
Meanwhile a leading Latin-rite prelate in Crimea criticised the international community for not taking action against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a March 12 statement on his diocesan website, Bishop Bronislaw Bernacki of Odessa-Simferopol wrote: "The world talks, criticises Russia and does exactly what Putin expects – nothing.”
He predicted that the referendum on Crimean secession from Ukraine, which has been rejected as illegal by most foreign governments, would "prove 80 percent support" for the region's annexation by Russia and reflected a "wider policy by Putin".
"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 bishop said.
Meanwhile Fr Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Kerch, in eastern Crimea, said church members are frightened by the Russian military occupation.
"Our Church has no legal status in the Russian Federation, so it's uncertain which laws will be applied if Crimea is annexed," he told the US-based Catholic News Service.