Religious occupation: oppression of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate in Crimea

On October 9, the study Religious Occupation: Oppression of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate in Crimea was presented at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, dealing with the violations of the rights of the UOC-KP and its parishioners in the occupied Crimea.

The occupation of Crimea has become a challenge for today’s human rights protection system. Anything connected with Ukraine on the peninsula is facing persecution. Along with Russian legislation came the policy of intolerance toward Orthodox denominations other than the Moscow Patriarchate. The current situation of the UOC-KP Crimean diocese once again proves Russia’s unwillingness to observe international law.

Even before Russia’s aggression, members of the UOC-KP constituted a religious minority: the communities of the Kyiv Patriarchate on the peninsula even then were 14 times fewer in number than those of the Moscow Patriarchate. There was a significant disparity in the number of religious buildings: 415 of the Moscow Patriarchate and 12 of the Kyiv one. “This domination helped representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate to effectively block the participation of UOC-KP clergy in local government activities and even, in some cases, to take part in festivities on the occasion of national holidays. The same can be said of UOC-KP’s representation in state or municipal media outlets on the peninsula – the Church is mostly mentioned for criticism”, says Oleksandr Sagan, religious scholar.

Over the course of the occupation, 38 of 46 parishes of the UOC-KP on the peninsula have ceased operating (8 are still working). On at least three occasions their churches were seized by the authorities – in Sevastopol, Simferopol and in Perevalne village. In the latter case, the building was handed over to the Moscow Patriarchate, since its Crimean diocese had entered into an agreement with the Russian authorities regarding patriotic education of the military. In some cases, parishes ceased their activities because the owners of the buildings had left Crimean.

“Out of fear of losing business for supporting the parishioners of the Kyiv Patriarchate, Ukrainian businessmen had to close parishes located on their premises in the cities of Saky, Krasnoperekopsk and Kerch over six months of 2014,” says Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea Clement.

Freedom of religion and protection of the clergy are guaranteed by international humanitarian law and international human rights law. “By imposing mandatory re-registration of religious communities under Russian legislation and depriving the UOC-KP of churches and property, Russian authorities interfere with the rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” comments Anastasiya Martynovska, lawyer of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

“The situation on the peninsula has led to a significant reduction of the religious group that had already been in minority. The actions of Russian authorities can be called discrimination based on nationality, since membership in the UOC-KP is one of the few available ways to preserve Ukrainian identity there,” says Sergiy Zayets, expert of the Regional Center for Human Rights.

Thematic review Crimea Beyond Rules. Religious occupation: Oppression of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate describes the issue of violations of the religious rights of Crimeans in more detail, providing a legal assessment of the actions of occupying authorities and presenting documents that prove the violations committed by Russia.

Review is available under this link

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