A Greek Orthodox Catholic priest who once survived a brutal kidnapping by pro-Russian forces is now performing daily exorcism rituals aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin. Father Tykhon Kulbaka recently shared that he decided to use his longtime status as a church leader to rid Putin of “an evil spirit” that “may inspire [his] actions.”
Kulbaka is from Donetsk, one of two eastern Ukraine republics to which Putin granted independence on February 21, days before invading the nation. Long-simmering religious tensions have contributed to the political unrest between the two countries.
Exorcism: Priest Wants to Cast Out ‘Demonic Influence’
On Facebook, Kulbaka writes, “I ask the merciful God either to free [Putin] from demonic influence and make them renounce evil and stand up for good (or) destroy such a devil bodily so that the soul may be saved in the day of the Lord.”
He welcomes others to join him in the exorcism, including fellow priests and laypeople, noting that “specific prayers are available to the laity with requests for deliverance from the evil spirit.” Kulbaka took those steps after deciding “to use my status as a priest of the United, Holy, Conciliar Church, to whom I have the grace and privilege to be for 30 years.”
Separatists Captured, Tortured Kulbaka in 2014
In July 2014, Father Kulbaka was shopping when four men blindfolded him and used chloroform to knock him out. Using torture and threats, they tried to get him to convert to the church aligned with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. That branch is often a mouthpiece for Russian nationalist ideology, with Putin relying on it to legitimize his actions.
Kulbaka refused to convert, despite life-threatening conditions. Three times the captors engaged in mock executions, shooting bullets above his head. When the militants discovered the priest is diabetic, they withheld his medicine and most water and food. Kulbaka ended up drinking water from a toilet tank to survive.
After 12 days of captivity, the priest was taken to a field and left in his car. For three months, he remained silent to protect his parishioners—whose names the captors knew. Afterward, Kulbaka recalled that the “emotional captivity” was worse than the “physical captivity,” with kidnappers accusing him of being the enemy.
Kulbaka was told, “You prayed for Ukraine! Imagine in 1942 anyone praying for the victory of Stalin in central Berlin. Hitler would kill them on the spot!” Kidnappers told him there was “no place” for Ukrainian Catholics, Protestants, or “schismatics” (people belonging to the Kyiv Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church).