OSCE diplomats received evidence of Russian crimes against religious communities and religious figures of Ukraine
According to the Institute for Religious Freedom, a thematic event on this topical issue was held on September 28 as part of the Warsaw conference on the human dimension, which this year was organized by the Polish OSCE Chairmanship. A separate discussion about Russian attacks on religious freedom in Ukraine was initiated by the Institute for religious freedom with the organizational support of the Center for Civil Liberties.
The attending foreign diplomats, journalists, human rights defenders and experts got acquainted with the results of a new study presented by the head of the IRS.
Chairman of the board of the Institute for Religious Freedom Oleksandr Zayets said in his speech:
"The report" Russian attacks on religious freedom in Ukraine" reveals the facts documented by the Institute of religious freedom of targeted shelling, vandalism and looting of religious buildings, attacks on religious figures, including torture and deliberate suffering, which were committed by the Russian military in Ukraine since February 24. And, unfortunately, the scale of Russian war crimes is only growing every day with the continuation of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine."
For example, Bishop Vitaly Kryvytsky cited the facts of shelling, deliberate damage to property, looting and vandalism committed by Russian soldiers at the seminary of the Roman Catholic Church in Vorzel, Kyiv region.
He also said that the situation in the occupied territories is changing rapidly. Even at the beginning of the 2014 war, there was a fact when, after some time of unhindered service, the Russian occupation authorities imprisoned a Catholic priest and repeatedly took him out for execution with a bag on his head, and then began to demand money for his ransom from captivity.
The Russian invasion was also a test for Christians of the evangelical Protestant Churches. On Sunday, September 11, 2022, Russian invaders seized the building of the Church of evangelical Christians "Grace" in Melitopol, Zaporizhia region, confiscated property, and pastor Mykhailo Brytsyn was expelled from the city.
Deputy senior bishop of the Ukrainian Church of Evangelical Christians Anatoly Kozachok said that evangelical churches, particularly the Pentecostal Church, have suffered a lot from the Russian invaders not only now but since 2014. Then they killed four servants in Slovyansk, Donetsk region. Now Russian soldiers are attacking evangelical Christians even more, considering them allegedly spies or supporters of the “wrong” faith or accusing them of supporting the Ukrainian army.
He added that in recent months, many Protestant churches have turned into powerful humanitarian hubs that help save the lives of people in the occupied territories and regions of active hostilities, as well as save from hunger and provide shelter to internally displaced persons from different regions of Ukraine.
Mitred archpriest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Fr. Oleksa Petriv, stressed that the particularly brutal crimes of the Russian military and their deliberate mockery of Christian shrines in Ukraine demonstrate a true degradation. According to the priest, in the territories occupied by Russia, there is a purposeful repressive policy of a totalitarian regime that cannot tolerate religious freedom, despises fundamental human rights and seeks to completely destroy the Ukrainian identity.
In order to respond to Russian war crimes against religious communities and minimize similar attacks on Ukrainian believers in the future, the Institute for Religious Freedom has prepared some guidelines. Maksym Vasin, executive director of the IRS, presented proposals prepared by the team of the report "Russian Offensive on Religious Freedom in Ukraine".
The thematic event ended with a series of questions and answers, during which Ukrainian religious figures and co-authors of the report shared their expert assessments of events in Ukraine.