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EU human rights defenders alarmed at Ukraine’s surge in religious discrimination

European human rights organizations are concerned about the predicament of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church believers

MOSCOW, September 28. /TASS/. European human rights organizations are concerned about the predicament of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church believers, Bishop Victor of Baryshevka, a vicar of the Kiev Diocese, said on Friday in an interview with the Church’s Information Department, following a Warsaw meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"This year, a great number of international organizations focused on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, expressing their concern about numerous cases of discrimination and rights abuses involving the largest denomination in Ukraine," he stated. According to Bishop Victor, еhe Church has been sending information about believers’ rights violations to the OSCE, the United Nations and human rights organizations for the past several years, and so they are keeping a close eye on the situation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The bishop went on to note that numerous cases of church seizures were presented at the OSCE meeting. "This has not been the first time, when some high-profile cases were mentioned, including the beating of our believers in the Katerinovka settlement, the illegal arrest of a church in the Ptichya settlement, the seizure of a church in the town of Kolomiya, as well as bills aimed against the Church, which have not been removed from the Verkhonva Rada’s agenda yet and still remain a cause of social tensions," the bishop specified.

"It is painful to say that our believers have been facing great pressure, they cannot freely exercise the right to worship within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and some of the authorities have clearly shown their attitude to us in a number of demonstrative cases and situations. In fact, some politicians and officials seek to brand our believers and the entire Church with inflammatory labels and destroy our canonical identity," he stressed.

Since 1991, Ukrainian authorities have time after time tried to establish a church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate. In late April, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) supported the country’s head of state Pyotr Poroshenko in his call on Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople to provide autocephaly to Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. The so-called Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, not recognized by any orthodox church in the world, welcomed the move, whereas the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is a constituent of the Moscow Patriarchate, did not make any request of this kind.