Evangelical leader and son tortured and killed in Ukraine

(Photo: Pexels/Denys Olieinykov)

An evangelical church leader and his 19-year-old son have been found tortured and killed in Ukraine.

The bodies of Anatoliy Prokopchuk, 52, and his son, Oleksandr, were discovered in a forest four days after being abducted by Russian soldiers, reports Release International, a charity supporting persecuted Christians.

According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and the Global Investigative Journalism Network, they were abducted by Russian soldiers at 7pm on 22 November while they were working in their garage near Kherson.

Prokopchuk was a deacon and preacher at a Pentecostal church in the nearby city of Nova Kakhova.

Pavel, a Release partner in Ukraine whose real name cannot be revealed for security reasons, said their bodies showed signs of "prolonged and excruciating torture".

"They were so mutilated that it was difficult to identify them," he said.

Prokopchuk leaves behind a widow, Irena, and five other children - four sons and a daughter.

Pavel remembered Prokopchuk as someone who had "helped many people in practical ways, enthusiastically and sacrificially, regardless of whether they were members of his church". 

It was reported that when the two were abducted, Russian soldiers told them, "Your church has no right to exist, as it has connections with America and other western countries."

Pavel said this had echoes of the Soviet era, "For this 'crime' many thousands of evangelical Christians were put into prisons and concentration camps for many years. Many were tortured and killed."

He asked for prayers for the family and forgiveness for the perpetrators.

"Please pray for Irina, for her orphaned children and young grandchildren who are just at the start of their lives. Pray for friends and relatives and for the church in Nova Kakhova, for all who knew Anatoly. They are going through tremendous grief right now," he said.

He added, "The Church of Christ does not call for hatred and revenge towards murderers, but for prayer, forgiveness and trust in God's justice."