Attacks on believers and the capture of UOC churches continue in Ukraine

Attacks on believers and the capture of UOC churches continue in Ukraine

In Ukraine representatives of district administrations, with the support of right-wing radical groups and activists of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), continue to capture the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, forcing believers to change their affiliation. The capture of churches is accompanied by acts of aggression and violence against believers and clergy.

In particular, activists of the OCU and officials in a number of villages of the Rovno region put serious pressure on believers of the UOC.

Thus, in the village of Ptycha in the Dubensky district of the Rovno region on April 4th, the raiders of the OCU captured the Svyato-Uspensky temple of the UOC. As was reported by the Union of Orthodox Journalists, the locks on the temple’s doors were cut off by with a circular saw, activists of the OCU called the police in advance and they did not impede these actions. The events were preceded by a so-called meeting about a transition to the OCU held by the activists on the territory of the temple in the village of Ptycha. Members of the community of the UOC, on whose behalf they made the "transition", were not invited to the meeting.

In another village of Rovno (Rozvazh, in the Ostrogsky district), local officials, supporters of the OCU, and a historian from Ostrog carried out a forceful inventory in a temple, despite the position of the UOC community. According to eyewitnesses, the head of the Village Council Yury Yagodka led the process of opening the temple bell tower, while outside the walls of the temple believers prayed together with their Abbot. The inventory of property lasted about an hour, then the Chairman of the Village Council closed the bell tower with a lock. The initiators of the inventory began a verbal skirmish with the believers of the UOC, who stood outside the temple. It was managed to stop and prevent the raiders from entering the premises of the temple.

Supporters of the new church structure also declared their claims to the Nativity of the Virgin Mary Church in Pyatygory in the Zdolbunov district of the Rovno region. After the service of the memorial Saturday of April 6th, activists of the OCU demanded to give them the keys to the temple. As eyewitnesses report, near the temple there was a serious conflict between believers and representatives of the OCU. As a result of a standoff, the prior of the temple, Archpriest Andrey Filippovich, who was put under enormous pressure during the past few days by OCU supporters, was taken away by an ambulance in a serious condition.

At the same time, in the Lvov region in the village of Banya-Lysovytskaya, where there the only Orthodox temple in the district is located, on the morning of the Feast of the Annunciation, the head of the Village Council and "Right Sector" broke into the temple during the service. The activists captured the temple and did not allow believers to worship. According to parishioners of the Church of the Intercession, the local Village Council has persecuted the temple of the canonical church all the years since the beginning of its construction. In order to take away the land from the temple, the authorities initiated more than 35 trials in different instances, but to no avail. And after the establishment of the OCU, the persecution escalated. The police officers who arrived at the scene brought the activists out of the temple, thwarting the provocation and preventing its capture.

On the same day unknown people desecrated and robbed a temple of the UOC in the Zhytomyr region. On the night of April 7th in the village of Korolevka in the Emilchinsky district of the Zhytomyr region, unknown persons broke the window and entered the altar of St. Nicholas Church, before trashing it. The police officers who were called to the scene carried out an investigation and took a statement from the Abbot.

Also, in the village of Sutkovtsi in the Khmelnitsky region activists of the OCU continue to try to capture the church-fortress of the UOC. Believers do not allow them into the temple and continue to stand their ground. The situation remains tense. The Svyato-Pokrovsky temple of the UOC is an architectural monument, and it is planned to allocate funds for its restoration. Because of this, supporters of the OCU have already submitted the registration documents of their community and came to capture the UOC temple. The activists wanted to cut off the locks and enter inside, without waiting for a judgment, however believers surrounded the temple and didn't allow it to be captured. The police and a representative of the SBU came to the temple. The confrontation continues.

At the same time, the believers of already captured temples continue to defend their rights in court.

Thus, on April 4th 2019, the following day after the capture of their temple, the Peter and Paul religious community of the village of Postoynoye in the Kostopolsky district of the Rovno region filed a lawsuit against the state administration officials who registered the OCU community with the same data as the community of the UOC and liquidated the UOC community without its knowledge. On April 3rd, armed with invalid documents, activists of the OCU cut off the locks and entered the building of the UOC temple.

According to the Abbot of the parish Archpriest Aleksandr Malchuk, the conflict in the village started on January 14th, and since that time supporters of the OCU have carried out several unsuccessful attempts to capture the temple. A cleric of the Sarnensky-Polesia diocese informed the officials that if their rights and freedoms are ignored, the UOC believers will next time come to prayer while standing outside the regional state administration for whole parish.

On January 31st law No. 2673-VIII "On amendments to some laws of Ukraine on the subordination of religious organisations and the procedure of the state registration of religious organisations with the status of a legal entity" entered into force in Ukraine. In accordance with the new version of the Law, the decision to change subordination and make appropriate changes or additions to the Charter should be made with no less than the 2/3 of the number of members of the religious community (membership criteria should be prescribed in the statutes) that is necessary for the recognition of the General Assembly of the religious community in accordance with its Charter (regulation). Also, all religious organisations will have to re-register their statutes within a year.

The human rights activists of "Uspishna Varta" note that even after the entry into force of the new version of the Law, such "transitions" are usually accompanied by acts of aggression carried out against the parishioners and priests of the UOC by radical "activists" and the exertion of administrative pressure by local officials.

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