Prime Minister Yatsenyuk Defends Believers in Ukraine from Oppression in Russia
Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine will not recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. However, he outlined the issues that the two countries should address immediately, including in the area of freedom of religion, the Ukrainian government head announced during an annual investment conference in Kyiv, the Institute for Religious Freedom reports.
“It is also necessary to consider the religious beliefs of Ukrainians in Russia so that the principle of freedom of religion is not only declared, but also implemented,” Interfax-Ukraine quoted Yatsenyuk as saying.
The prime minister said that Russia should recognize the independence of Ukraine and the fact that Ukraine wants to join the EU. He added no less important is the question of bilateral trade and energy.
“We are ready to start negotiations between the foreign ministers, the so-called contact group, which was introduced three weeks ago,” the prime minster said.
According to religious studies expert Viktor Yelenskyi, president of the Ukrainian Association for Religious Freedom, the Ukrainian prime minister was prompted to make his statement not only because religious freedom in Crimea is being grossly violated and priests are being kidnapped and humiliated, but also because of the overall situation of freedom of religion in the Russia where almost two million Ukrainians live.
“Almost daily monitoring centers and religious organizations report serious, sometimes blatant violations of freedom. In March alone reports of religious preachers being detained by the police and fingerprinted have come from Bryansk, Kemerovo, and Yaroslavl oblasts, and the Krasnodar region,” said the expert.
According to Yelenskyi, in Rostov Oblast police and the FSB raided a Baptist Rehabilitation Center and detained all those present in the office, while in Chelyabinsk Oblast all of the people who were being treated in the Iskhod rehabilitation center were detained.
“In Russia mosques and prayer houses are deliberately destroyed, holy relics are seized from the ‘wrong Orthodox,’ and so on. It is clear that there is nothing like this in Ukraine, citizens of which the Kremlin has undertaken to protect,” concluded the expert.
Earlier, the heads of churches and religious organizations of Ukraine denied the allegations of the Russian authorities about the presence in Ukraine of conflicts with ethnic and religious grounds. “In our country there is no harassment on the basis of language, nationality, and religion,” the church leaders said in a statement.