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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
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DONBAS: Luhansk: More Christian texts "extremist", Catholic priests banned

After officials in the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic apparently seized Christian literature from local Baptists, Sverdlovsk court declared four Protestant books "extremist". Acting Deputy General Prosecutor Roman Gubaydulin put the phone down when asked why he lodged the suit. The books are among 18 Protestant and 6 Jehovah's Witness publications on the "State List of Extremist Materials". "Parishioners in Luhansk are very sad and pained that they have no priest," says Catholic priest Grzegorz Rapa, still unable to return. Officials at the Stanitsa Luhanska crossing point refused entry to the new bishop of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s local diocese.

DONBAS: Luhansk: "The last Mass was in April 2020"

Catholics in the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic have been denied a priest and the possibility to receive communion since April 2020, officials giving contradictory reasons for banning the return of Fr Grzegorz Rapa. An Orthodox Church of Ukraine chapel has been ordered closed, and its bishop denied entry. Among religious texts banned as "extremist" are John's Gospel in the Synodal translation and the Jehovah's Witness New World Bible. Officials refuse to explain why. Despite a ban on Protestant meetings for worship, small meetings continue under threat of criminal prosecution.

DONBAS: Donetsk: Raid, fine for unregistered worship meetings

Security forces of the unrecognised Donetsk People's Republic raided Protestant Sunday morning worship on 19 January. They interrogated church leaders at the police station. In December 2019, a Makeyevka court fined another Protestant leader 10 days' average local wages for leading a community denied registration. "Each country has its own Religion Law," the rebels' Ombudsperson Darya Morozova claimed, wrongly.

DONBAS: Luhansk: No gas, electricity, water for unregistered communities

The rebel Luhansk People's Republic – which denies registration to many religious communities including all Protestants – threatens to cut off gas, electricity and water to places of worship belonging to unrecognised communities. The rebel authorities have allowed the only Catholic priest to return to the territory, but have not said if he can remain permanently or only for three months.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Soviet-era prisoner of conscience to be jailed again?

Officers of the State Security Ministry of the unrecognised Luhansk People's Republic threatened Baptist Pastor Vladimir Rytikov – a Soviet-era prisoner of conscience – with an "extremism" criminal prosecution if he continues to lead worship without official permission. Prosecutors are still investigating Orthodox Church of Ukraine priest Anatoli Nazarenko on "extremism" charges.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Gospel of John, Baptist books banned

The unrecognised Luhansk People's Republic banned 12 Baptist books as "extremist", including an edition of the Gospel of John in the widely-used Russian Synodal translation. Officials refused to say why the books are "extremist" and what will happen to those found with them. The ban came a week after the Supreme Court overturned a court order to destroy seized Baptist books.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Worship bans, clergy bans, punishments

Worship is banned in all Protestant churches and Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Halls, as the unrecognised Luhansk People's Republic bans exercising freedom of religion or belief without permission. Courts punish those leading unapproved worship. Prosecutors are investigating an Orthodox priest on "extremism" criminal charges. With no permanent resident priest, Catholics hold Mass by Skype. With bans on clergy visiting, many communities suffer isolation.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Community work, fines, property seizure

A Baptist leader in Krasnodon hopes to overturn a punishment of 20 hours' community work when the case resumes at the Supreme Court in Luhansk on 21 October. Krasnodon court punished Pastor Vladimir Rytikov for leading an unapproved Sunday worship meeting which police raided in April. Another pastor was fined in October for leading worship in August, which police also raided.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Orthodox cathedral, more Protestant churches raided

Officials of the unrecognised Luhansk People's Republic raided at least two Protestant Sunday worship meetings on 24 March. Courts chose not to punish two pastors. On 4 April anti-"extremism" police raided the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Holy Trinity Cathedral in Luhansk, diocesan offices and the homes of two priests. A police officer refused to say if further measures against the priests are planned.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Baptist Union Churches forced to halt public worship

Officials of the unrecognised Luhansk People's Republic threatened Baptist Union pastors not to meet for worship, sending "a clear message that they will not tolerate such meetings for worship any more". Officials regard all Protestant churches as "illegal". 82-year-old independent Baptist pastor Anatoly Tolstenko faces court on 21 March.

DONBAS: Donetsk: Jehovah's Witnesses banned

The Supreme Court of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic banned Jehovah's Witnesses on 26 September, a decision that cannot be challenged. Jehovah's Witness activity "in any form" would face criminal punishment, the General Prosecutor's Office announced. Convictions could lead to a maximum eight-year jail term.

DONBAS: Luhansk: Re-registration denials, raids, religious communities closed

No Baptist, Seventh-day Adventist or Pentecostal communities gained the compulsory re-registration the self-declared Luhansk People's Republic demanded by 15 October. Adventists received registration denial "with great pain" and reluctantly halted all their activities, trying to avoid church property seizure. Catholics are still awaiting an answer.

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