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UKRAINE: Conscientious objector freed, new trial ordered

Ukraine's Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Christian conscientious objector Vitaly Alekseenko – the first jailed conscientious objector since Russia's renewed invasion - and ordered his release from prison. However, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial in the original court, and his requests to perform an alternative civilian service have been ignored. A Supreme Court case lodged by Christian conscientious objector Andrii Vyshnevetsky – still forcibly held in the army – continues. He argues that failure to determine a procedure for dismissal from military service on the basis of conscientious objection is illegal.

RUSSIA: "Would Jesus Christ have gone to kill in Ukraine?"

Eduard Charov criticised Russia's invasion of Ukraine on social media, asking "Would Jesus Christ have gone to kill in Ukraine?". The FSB alerted the Prosecutor's Office. A Sverdlovsk Region court fined him for "discrediting" the Armed Forces and "inciting hatred" towards state authorities. A Moscow court fined Mariya Kunchenko for an Orthodox Easter Sunday protest, while a Kareliya court fined Yekaterina Kukharskaya for putting up stickers bearing the Sixth Commandment ("Thou shalt not kill"). Police, prosecutors' offices, and courts did not respond to Forum 18's questions.

UZBEKISTAN: Devout Muslim jailed after return to country

Prisoner of conscience and devout Muslim, 52-year-old Alijon Mirganiyev has been transferred to a strict regime prison to serve a 6 and a half year sentence imposed after he returned to Uzbekistan from Turkey. He was promised he would not be arrested if he returned to end criminal charges brought against him for his exercise of freedom of religion and belief, but was arrested on arrival at Tashkent Airport. "This is one of the numerous fabricated cases made against influential Muslims," says human rights defender Yelena Urlayeva.

OCCUPIED UKRAINE: First known "discreditation" case in Russian-annexed territory

In the first known case in parts of Ukraine Russia illegally claimed to have annexed in 2022, Fr Feognost (Timofei Pushkov) is facing prosecution under Russia's Administrative Code for "discrediting" Russia's armed forces. Russia's FSB security service appear to have notified colleagues in Luhansk about Fr Feognost's YouTube video discussing how his views on patriotism based on Christian principles differed from those of three other Orthodox priests. Markivka District Court is due to hear the case on 30 May. Judge Roman Shulga was unavailable when Forum 18 called the court.

OCCUPIED UKRAINE: "Disappeared" clergy still "disappeared" after six months

On 16 November 2022, troops of Russia's National Guard seized two Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests, Fr Ivan Levytsky and Fr Bohdan Heleta, in Berdyansk. Six months later, there is no information about where they are, their state of health – or if they are still alive. Asked why they had been seized, the Russian Berdyansk Police responded: "That's all rubbish. Ask [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky's special services – they're responsible." An Orthodox Church of Ukraine parish's Easter service was banned because the priest refused to transfer to the Moscow Patriarchate.

BELARUS: Seven fined for talking about Easter in street

Seven Protestants were fined about 2 months' average wages each for talking to others on a Minsk street about Easter. Police arrested and handcuffed the seven, took them to a police station, and held them for about eight hours. No official would explain why they did this. Similarly, regime officials refuse to explain why they denied the Catholic Red Church parish – forcibly closed by the regime in 2022 – permission to hold Easter mass in the church grounds. The regime also refuses to publish planned 2023 Religion Law changes.

UKRAINE: Army rejects conscientious objector alternative service transfer

Christian conscientious objector Andrii Vyshnevetsky has been refused transfer to alternative civilian service, despite from his mobilisation onwards asking for this. On 22 May the Supreme Court will hear his case that the President must lay down a procedure to allow individual conscientious objection to military service. Viktor Yelensky, head of the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience, told Forum 18 he has been pushing for all conscientious objectors to be allowed to do alternative civilian service, but "my efforts have been rejected".

UKRAINE: Second conscientious objector jail sentence

Mykhailo Yavorsky, a 39-year-old Christian, is appealing against a one-year jail term handed down on 6 April for refusing mobilisation on grounds of conscience. If he loses his planned appeal he will be sent to prison. "I would not carry weapons and would not put on a uniform, as I can't kill a person," Yavorsky told Forum 18. "They offered me no alternative service." He is the second known conscientious objector sentenced to jail in Ukraine since Russia's renewed invasion, despite asking to do alternative civilian service.