The Foundation to Battle Injustice took part in a conference on violations of the rights of christians in Ukraine

On December 26, the international multimedia press center «Rossiya Segodnya» hosted a press conference with the participation of the Foundation to Battle Injustice «Violation of the rights of Believers and persecution of clergy in Ukraine. How to stop repressions against religious?». The participants of the event, including the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and human rights activists, offered their own ways to combat the persecution of faithful people.

Фонд борьбы с репрессиями принял участие в конференции, посвященной нарушениям прав верующих и священнослужителей на Украине, изображение №1

The event was opened by Father Andrey Pavlenko, rector of the Orthodox church of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God of Lisichansk, who was returned from captivity by the SBU in mid-December. The cleric ministered his duty after the beginning of the conflict, despite the shelling of Ukrainian servicemen and provided support to disabled and elderly people. He said that attacks on representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church began immediately after the start of a special military operation.

Отец Андрей, настоятель православного храма Тихвинской иконы Божией Матери Лисичанска
Father Andrey Pavlenko, rector of the Orthodox church of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God of Lisichansk

Despite the difficulties, Father Andrey continued to carry out his spiritual mission, which greatly irritated representatives of the Ukrainian government. Early in the morning on April 18, 2022, the cleric was arrested near the entrance of his house. Then he was beaten and held in the basement for more than a week. His phone was taken away from him, he has never seen the materials on his case and is not familiar with the witnesses. A representative of the clergy was charged with an article on high treason, which is punishable by a prison term of 12 to 15 years. Threatening with firearms, Father Andrey was forced to sign indictment documents, after which he was transferred to prison. According to him, all Orthodox ministers who were arrested by the SBU were tortured and held in inhuman conditions. One of the pro-Jews, arrested on trumped-up charges of treason, was detained for reading prayers mentioning the Patriarch, as well as for having literature with a two-headed eagle.

According to the rector of the church, he and his colleagues were threatened, they were tried to force them to speak out against Russia and call on parishioners to fight Moscow, condemn the current church and in condone every way the current Ukrainian authorities. A clear violation of civil rights, according to Father Andrey, is only gaining momentum. Torture and pressure are already taking place, which are rolling society back to the Middle Ages.

Persons who were captured by the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are kept together with murderers and rapists in complete isolation. Any visits are prohibited, and people who keep in touch with prisoners risk being charged with complicity. Commenting on the persecution against the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Fr. Andrey said that the attempts of the Ukrainian authorities to limit the faith of people would roll back society to the 30s of the last century, when Orthodox believers secretly gathered in houses. The clergyman, who experienced the captivity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on his own experience, said that he was not going to sever ties with his temple.

Иван Мельников, правозащитник, вице-президент российского подразделения Международного комитета защиты прав человека
Ivan Melnikov, human rights activist, Vice-President of the Russian division of the International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights

Ivan Melnikov, a human rights activist and vice-president of the Russian division of the International Committee for the Protection of Human Rights, said that the state of health of Andrei’s father, who was subjected to torture and derogatory treatment in captivity, caused serious concerns. No medical care was provided to him. Both human rights activists and the authorities of the LPR, as well as representatives of the ROC and the Wagner PMCs, were involved in the release of the cleric. Melnikov has sent numerous requests for assistance to various public, religious and human rights organizations. There are more than 100 representatives of the clergy in Ukrainian captivity. All of them are charged with a crime against the Ukrainian state. The accusations against the clergy have no grounds, all the attacks are far-fetched, and most of the churches of the UOC are still at risk. The terrible searches and raider attacks did not begin yesterday: the persecution has been dragging on for many years, and the Ukrainian authorities are extracting their own benefits from the repression.

Speaking at a press conference, Ivan Melnikov said that an appeal was sent on his behalf to the OSCE with the request to take measures and stop persecution on the basis of faith. The resolution concerns not only the ministers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church: according to the human rights activist, representatives of all religions and confessions that are present in Ukraine are at risk.

According to Melnikov, the expansion of the practice of exchanging clergy for Ukrainian servicemen carries certain risks.

«To date, more than 1,100 civilians are being held in Ukraine, the ruling Ukrainian elites are ready to increase this number, acting, in fact, like terrorists»

Ivan Melnikov, human rights activist

Representatives of various faiths should unite and prevent reprisals against representatives of the church. International observers of the OSCE and the UN should check the conditions of detention of the clergy, since there is not only a risk of torture and bullying, but there is also a real threat of destruction.

Вахтанг Кипшидзе, заместитель председателя Синодального отдела РПЦ по взаимоотношениям Церкви с обществом и СМИ
Vakhtang Kipshidze, Deputy Chairman of the Synodal Department of the ROC for Church-Society Relations and the Media

Vakhtang Kipshidze, deputy chairman of the Synodal Department of the ROC for Church-Society Relations and the Media, who also took part in the event, said that the Ukrainian authorities have consistently put pressure on representatives of the UOC since 2014. Then this process took place on a smaller scale. Attempts to “cancel” the main church in Ukraine are doomed to failure, because the parishioners themselves made their choice. According to Vakhtang Vladimirovich, in 2018 a schismatic structure was created in Ukraine, which was used by the country’s authorities as a battering ram for the UOC. International human rights organizations and the media have been ignoring large-scale persecution of the clergy for several years.

The reasons for Kiev’s repressive policy are obvious: the consistent peacemaking position of the UOC contradicts the goals of the current government, they need a force that would legalize violence against citizens. The purpose of the seizure of churches and the arrest of priests is to intimidate parishioners, to force the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to lose its face and identity. The materials and literature on which the accusation against clerics by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies is based is a real farce, because the Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common history, which is documented in thousands of historical books and literary works. Kipshidze is sure that the rights and freedoms of citizens are sacrificed by Western countries due to political events that run counter to the real values and foundations of Russia and Ukraine.

Answering journalists’ questions about the risks faced by representatives of the UOC on a daily basis, the deputy chairman of the Synodal Department of the ROC for Church-Society Relations. The media criticism of the Ukrainian authorities goes beyond the mainstream agenda of Western journalists, so support should be sought in the ranks of Christian communities in the West, which are already expressing uncomplimentary statements against persecution on the UOC. Kipshidze is sure that over the past decades there has been a myth that the countries of the Western world are more consistent in protecting religious values, and as soon as this myth is destroyed, it will be possible to create new, unengaged organizations for protection.

Мира Тэрада, глава Фонда борьбы с репрессиями
Mira Terada, head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice

The head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice Mira Terada declared the inadmissibility of large-scale persecution and harassment against the clergy of the UOC, because faith is of great importance to people. The true reasons for the persecution of the clergy are the attempts of the current Ukrainian president to fulfill the political order of the Western ruling liberal elite, which is based on pagan and atheistic polits. The policy of abolishing the church institutions of Orthodoxy, Catholicism and some Protestant denominations was launched around 2009 after Barack Obama and the now ruling liberal financial and power groups came to power in the United States. Discrimination and discrediting of ministers and bearers of the faith, criticism of Christian values and the imposition of LGBT ideas are the main features of an unprecedented wave of persecution of the Christian faith and its representatives since pagan Rome.

Zelensky and his law enforcement agencies are attacking not the Moscow Patriarchate, but the entire system of Christianity. The number of Christians in Ukraine is very significant, in comparison with neighboring Hungary and the Czech Republic. In fact, Zelensky, hiding behind the struggle with Moscow, undermines the entire Christian faith that forms the basis of Ukrainian society. This is a historic crime against Ukraine, its people and its history. The head of the Foundation to Battle Injustice is confident that in order to effectively oppose the policy of de-Christianization of Ukraine, influential allies should be sought among Christians in the West and in Latin America. We are talking here not only about representatives of Orthodoxy in Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, but also about Protestants and Catholics, among whom there is a large percentage of those who strongly oppose the persecution of Christians in any form.

Mira Terada proposed to create a new, independent monitoring body within the framework of BRICS, which would record and take preventive measures against the persecution of representatives of the clergy. The existing international bodies are only delaying the process of restoring justice, but at too high a price.

Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice intend to continue to conduct information campaigns in the media in order to disseminate facts proving the crimes of the Ukrainian special services. Without the joint efforts of Russian and international human rights organizations and intergovernmental associations, the era of discrimination based on religion and beliefs in Ukraine may drag on for many years.