Russia is responsible for the oppression of freedom of religion in the occupied territories of Crimea and Donbass.

The complete de-occupation of the Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbass will stop the brutal persecution of believers from different confessions caused by Russia’s occupation authorities and will restore religious freedom.

This, was announced by the participants of the Round Table on freedom of Religion in Ukraine in a Resolution issued on the 14th of May, 2019 in Kyiv at the press center of the UCMC.

The resolution states that the occupation authorities in Crimea do not recognize freedom of religion, but considers it as a collective category, depending on the level of loyalty towards the Russian authorities. As a result, the Russian authorities in Crimea continue to persecute Muslims, from among Crimean Tatars, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some Evangelical churches in Ukraine.

“The occupation of Crimea has led to numerous violations of freedom of religion. Forcibly introduced, Russian legislation is widely used to persecute religious communities and individual believers. The so-called anti-extremist legislation of Russia contravenes international standards and is used for groundless accusations and persecutions of believers and religious communities, ” the resolution states.

At the same time, the situation in the occupied territories of the Donbass is even worse: most of the religious communities simply ceased to exist, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion is not present as a phenomenon.

Somewhere, like during the period of the Soviet regime, believers of certain denominations are forced to gather underground, to have the opportunity for joint prayers to study the foundations of Faith and to fulfil religious ceremonies.

Dozens of temples, prayer houses and places of worship have been captured and are now under the control of illegal armed units of the so-called “DPR” and “LNR”, supported by Russia. Practices of abduction, torture and extrajudicial executions of clerics and individual believers of most confessions, except the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, are widespread.

“As a result of the deliberate policy of terror ruled by the occupation authorities, which copies the judicial arbitrariness and repressive laws of Russia, most of the clergy with their families have left the occupied Donbass,” said human rights activists and religious figures of Ukraine.

The initiators of the resolution require the Russian Federation to take measures for the de-occupation of the Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbass and the cessation of their offensive on the freedom of religion, as well as the immediate release of all Ukrainian citizens imprisoned on grounds of professing their religious beliefs, which is a direct violation of the Article 9 of the European Convention on human rights.

In addition, the resolution calls on the UN member states to initiate a public report on the situation of freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the occupied Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbass in order to present it at specially organized hearings in the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the EU and the United States.

The initiators of the resolution also request the appointment of an EU Special Representative for the Occupied Ukrainian Territories of Crimea and the Donbass to carry out continuous monitoring concerning of the situation concerning the violation of human rights and to report it publicly and periodically to the EU Council.

The resolution was supported by 50 participants in the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine, among which 25 churches and religious organizations and 25 human rights and other non-governmental organizations.

Recall that the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine was established on the 16th April 2019 in Kyiv by the participants of the first meeting, which decided to unite the efforts of the religious community and human rights defenders, with the involvement of scientists and representatives of the government in the affirmation of religious freedom and peace building.

The organizational support of the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine is carried out by the Institute for Religious Freedom in partnership with the Center for Civil Liberties with the support of the UCSJ.

The full text of the Resolution is available at the following links:

In Ukrainian: ReligiousFreedom.in.ua/files/2019.04.16-Roundtable-Resolution-signed-UKR.pdf
In English: ReligiousFreedom.in.ua/files/2019.04.16-Roundtable-Resolution-signed-ENG.pdf
in Russian: ReligiousFreedom.in.ua/files/2019.04.16-Roundtable-Resolution-signed-RUS.pdf

In this press conference on which the Resolution of the Round Table on Religious Freedom in Ukraine was published, took part:

Pastor Anatoliy Kozachok, First Deputy Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Church of the Evangelical Christians;
at. Olexa Petriv, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations in Ukraine, Mitrophorist Archpriest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church;
Gennadiy Biloritsky, representative of the Association of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine, legal advisor to the Chief Rabin of Kyiv and Ukraine;
Sheikh Rustam Gafuri, Deputy Mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine;
Alexander Zayets, chairman of the Board of the Institute of Religious Freedom, moderator of the Round Table on Religious
Oleksandra Matviychuk, chairman of the Center for Civil Liberties;
Yevgeny Zakharov, Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group;
Olga Skrypnyk, chairman of the Crimean human rights group.

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