Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Botswana
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30 april / 2019

Press release on mass violations in Ukraine of the rights of believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The leadership of Ukraine, in violation of its international legal obligations, including within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as domestic legislation continues to interfere in the affairs of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. The political background of these actions, which has nothing to do with matters of faith, is obvious - and is even openly acknowledged by the Ukrainian authorities themselves. According to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), as of the end of March this year 62 cases of seizure of its churches and parishes were recorded, some of which took place with the active unlawful complicity of representatives of local authorities. In most cases, law enforcement agencies showed inaction and shied away from a legal assessment of these facts. Against this background, Russia hopes that more attention will be paid to the situation around the persecutions of the UOC. By the way, the corresponding invoice was announced by the representative of the UOC at the OSCE supplementary meeting on tolerance and non-discrimination that was held in Vienna on April 1-2, 2019.

In connection with mass violations of human rights in Ukraine and a real threat of escalation of the religious conflicts in the country, Bishop Victor of Baryshevka, head of the UOC representation to the European international organizations, recorded a video-appeal to officials of the UN, OSCE, EU and a number of other organizations. Reminding them that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the largest confession in Ukraine, amounting to over 12 thousand communities, the archpastor underscored, “the UOC churches and monasteries are visited by millions of Ukrainian citizens who love their country and their people, constantly praying for the cessation of the war and establishment of peace in our homeland. Most regrettably, however, the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine have become hostages to a political game played by our country leaders, who have also involved Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in these processes, which have already led to numerous clashes on religious grounds. It would seem that a good cause – an attempt to create a One Local Church in Ukraine – should have eventually led to reconciliation, but instead, our country is struck by new confrontations and conflicts”.

His Eminence told them that the churches of the canonical Church, which has a millennium-long history, are captured, the faithful are beat up, while the state officials force its clergy to move over to “a new Church” supported by the head of the Ukrainian state.

He also referred to the law adopted recently by the Ukrainian parliament -Supreme Rada, whereby the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is obliged to change its historical name and include in it an information that does not correspond to reality. ‘This law is a direct interference of the state into church affairs, which violates not only fundamental human rights but also the European principle of autonomy of religious organizations. We have never denied our spiritual communion with the Russian Orthodox Church, from which the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received independence in all administrative, financial and economic issues. For 29 years, the administrative center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been located in the capital of our independent state – the city of Kiev. Nevertheless, the President and other politicians are trying to accuse us of non-existent “ties with Moscow”, “separatism”, “propaganda of the Russian World”, by sticking political labels on our believers that have nothing to do with church life”.

Bishop Victor stressed that in Ukraine today “there is a struggle going on over the last barrier of human dimension – the spiritual. Without a doubt, this will entail negative implications not only for our country as it is integrating into Europe, but also for all countries of the European Union and the whole world”.

Russia views with concern the information of the UN Observation Mission on the cases of intimidation documented by it against the clergy of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In particular, experts point to the discriminatory nature of the decision to forcibly rename religious organizations affiliated with religious centers in the Russian Federation. The report also notes that the UN has received a number of complaints about the forced inclusion of religious communities in the new "autocephalous" church of Ukraine. Our state considers the indicated outrageous actions by the Kiev authorities as a gross violation of religious rights and freedoms in the country.

the Embassy of the Russian Federation

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“The Ukrainian Security Service has summoned our priests for questioning, and our bishops can travel abroad only after a preliminary interrogation and an enhanced inspection by special state services”, the hierarch continued, stating that the capture of churches in the presence of police has become a day-to-day activity.

“For the last five years, politicians of the highest level have openly expressed animosity towards our Church, giving the whole society signs that it is possible to commit crimes against the UOC and its believers with impunity”, he said.

Never have the persecutions of Christians been left without a trace for the rulers who committed them; for we know God cannot be mocked”.

Stating that the Ukrainians, by their very nature, are a peace-loving people who stand aloof from conflicts and discord, His Eminence noted, “Inciting religious hatred is an artificial process initiated by those who challenge legal, European, democratic and human values.

“Millions of believers of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church call upon the officials of European and international institutions to raise their weighty voice and intervene in the current situation in Ukraine, using their authority and mandates which provide for the right to speak, act and defend justice through modern tools of diplomacy, law and justice”, he said addressing representatives of international institutions and other countries. He also invited all the stakeholders – journalists, human rights advocates, officials ‘to come to Ukraine and see with their own eyes everything that is happening’.

“On our part, for the past few years we have been informing the international human rights mechanism, the UN special rapporteurs system on freedom of religion or belief, the UN Human Rights Council, and the OSCE about violations of the rights of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church faithful and will continue to do so’, the UOC representative to the European international organizations said in conclusion.

Руководство Украины в нарушение своих международно-правовых обязательств, в т.ч. в рамках ОБСЕ, а также внутреннего законодательства продолжает вмешиваться в дела украинского православия. Политическая подоплека этих действий, не имеющая ничего общего с вопросами веры, очевидна - и даже открыто признается самими украинскими властями. По данным Украинской православной церкви (УПЦ), по состоянию на конец марта зафиксировано 62 случая захвата ее храмов и приходов, некоторые из которых прошли при активном противоправном соучастии представителей местных властей. В большинстве случаев правоохранительные органы проявляли бездействие и уклонялись от правовой оценки этих фактов. На этом фоне рассчитываем, что СММ будет уделять больше внимания ситуации вокруг гонений на УПЦ. Кстати говоря, соответствующая фактура была озвучена представителем УПЦ на прошедшем в Вене 1-2 апреля допсовещании ОБСЕ по вопросам толерантности и недискриминации.

С обеспокоенностью воспринимаем информацию Наблюдательной миссии о задокументированных ею случаях запугиваний в отношении духовенства канонической Украинской православной церкви. В частности, эксперты указывают на дискриминационный характер решения о принудительном переименовании религиозных организаций, аффилированных с религиозными центрами в Российской Федерации. В докладе отмечается также, что в ООН поступил ряд жалоб на принудительное включение религиозных общин в состав новой «автокефальной» церкви Украины. Рассматриваем указанные вопиющие действия со стороны киевских властей как грубое нарушение религиозных прав и свобод в стране.