Rashists in occupied cities confiscate Protestant houses of worship, imprison and deport pastors
In the village of Chkalove, Melitopol District, military personnel of the invader forces came to an evening service on Wednesday, September 21, and banned Christians from gathering, saying: "You won't set foot here after the referendum. We have only one faith: Orthodox faith." Since the beginning of the war, services have been held daily in the church.
In Mariupol, the occupation authorities closed a church in the Kurchatovo micro-district this month and are now holding the presbyter of the church and his wife in an unknown place. Earlier, the Presbyter was already arrested and then released, at the same time, the church was sealed, but then the faithful were still able to hold services.
"On Sunday, September 11, at the Grace Church in Melitopol, armed men entered the church building when parishioners were praising God," says Hyun Suk Foley, a representative of The Voice of Martyrs — Korea. "The authorities stopped the service, registered the names of all those present, and detained several ministers." Foley's spokesperson says the church's pastor, Mykhailo Britsin, was ordered to leave the city within 48 hours.
According to Foley's representative, the service was broadcast live, so those who watched the broadcast online witnessed the events. The video of the service was deleted.
According to Foley's representative, the Grace Church, the word of Life Church and the Melitopol Christian Church are the three largest Protestant communities in Melitopol.
The Voice of the Martyrs-Korea confirmed reports that the word of Life Church building was seized by the occupation authorities in August. Church pastor Dmitry Bodya was arrested and detained for several days in March before being released and then leaving the city. Foley spokesperson says services at the church continued until August when they were officially suspended.
The Voice of the Martyrs-Korea also confirmed reports that the building of the Melitopol Christian Church was seized by the occupation authorities in August after harassment of the church and its pastor Viktor Sergeev began in March.
"The MHC was the largest church in the city," says Foley's spokesperson. "It was a charismatic church known for its large campus with a thousand-seat auditorium, fountain, palm trees and gym."
Eyewitnesses confirmed that the cross was removed from the church, and the church turned into a "cultural, sports and entertainment complex".
Confiscation of church buildings and detention of pastors are also taking place in other cities occupied by the occupation forces, such as Mariupol, Foley's representative says.
“In Mariupol this month, the military asked for a house of worship to organize a referendum, but the church members refused,” says Foley's representative. The authorities of the invaders sealed the House of worship. But church members reopened the prayer building to hold Sunday services.
"During the service, the military came to the church and took away the presbyter of the church Leonid Ponomarev," says Foley's representative. "At the end of the service, the brothers went to the military enlistment office with documents confirming that the house is private property.
"Now the building is sealed, and Leonid Ponomarev and his wife, Tetyana Mykolayivna, are being held in an unknown place," says Foley's representative. "We are closely monitoring reports that the Presbyter is charged with participating in extremist activities, based on which a search warrant has been issued for the house of prayer on Kurchatov street for the presence of extremist literature."