The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief
10 September 2014
CRIMEA: The unbearable burden of re-registration?
All 1,546 religious communities in Crimea which had state registration with the Ukrainian authorities are being required to re-register under Russian law by 1 January 2015 if they wish to retain legal status. A wide range of communities have complained to Forum 18 News Service of the burden of having to prepare documentation and the lack of information about how to go about it. Communities that function throughout Crimea will have to register in Moscow, the rest in Crimea. Many communities which wish to remain part of Ukrainian religious organisations – including the Moscow Patriarchate and Kiev Patriarchate dioceses, the Greek Catholic Exarchate and Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Armenian Apostolic parishes – remain uncertain as to whether this will be allowed. Nikolai Barylyuk of the Crimean Department of the Russian Justice Ministry refused to tell Forum 18 whether religious communities' previous registration under Ukrainian law remains valid.
3 September 2014
CRIMEA: Enforced departure of Turkish imams; FSB surveillance
All but five of 23 Turkish imams and religious teachers invited by the Crimean Muftiate under a 20-year-old programme have been forced to leave Crimea as Russia's Federal Migration Service refused to extend their residence permits. The rest will have to leave when their residence permits expire. "We can't invite anyone now as they say we have no legal status," Jemil Bibishev of the Muftiate lamented to Forum 18 News Service. "If they want to begin mission work in Crimea they will have to get a visa from the Russian embassy in Turkey in accordance with Russian law," Yana Smolova of the Federal Migration Service insisted to Forum 18. Representatives of a range of religious communities have told Forum 18 that they are under surveillance by the FSB security service. Greek Catholic priest Fr Bogdan Kostetsky has been summoned several times. Among the questions were some about his attitude to Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church until his death in 1944. The duty officer at the Yevpatoriya FSB told Forum 18 he had never heard that Fr Kostetsky had been summoned.
26 August 2014
CRIMEA: First known Russian religious literature "extremism" prosecution
Esadullakh Bairov, a deputy head of Crimea's Muftiate, became the first individual since the Russian annexation of Crimea in March to be prosecuted for "extremist" religious literature seized during a raid on a madrassah (Islamic religious school). Dzhankoi District Court in northern Crimea today (26 August) fined him 2,000 Russian Roubles, the court told Forum 18 News Service. Prosecutor Andrei Oliyar, who brought the administrative case, described the raid on the madrassah as an "inspection". He refused to say what confiscated books had been the basis for the prosecution. "It was such a long list," he told Forum 18. "Just to read it would take 15 or 20 minutes." At least seven Crimean madrassahs, as well as mosques, private homes and the Muftiate itself have been raided in the hunt for religious literature controversially banned as "extremist" by Russian courts.
27 June 2014
CRIMEA: Old and new place of worship problems, Greek Catholic clergy restrictions
Crimean officials deny that a decree which will lead to a substantial rise in the rent the Kiev Patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox Church pays on its nearly 20-year-old cathedral in the Crimean capital Simferopol is a targeted move. "There is no discrimination in relation to this particular church," Lyudmila Khorozova of Crimea's Property Fund, which owns the building, claimed to Forum 18 News Service. She was unable to explain why no decrees have been adopted relating to other religious communities. Sevastopol's Roman Catholic community is less optimistic since March about being able to regain its historic church. It lodged a European Court of Human Rights case over earlier denials in 2001. Greek Catholic priests from elsewhere in Ukraine can serve in Crimea only for three months in any four. All 1,546 religious communities with Ukrainian registration will have to re-register under Russian law.
26 June 2014
CRIMEA: Raids, violence, threats – but what protection do victims get?
About 30 armed Russian security agency officers raided a madrassah (Islamic religious school) near the Crimean capital Simferopol on 24 June, Forum 18 News Service notes. The staff and students were from the Crimean Tatar minority. Three weeks earlier, a mob attacked a Kiev Patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its congregation on a military base in Perevalnoe. The mob then changed the locks on the building to prevent it being used by the congregation. Jehovah's Witnesses have noted "a significant increase in violence" against them since March. One such attack resulted in Nikolai Martsenyuk (who was peacefully sharing his beliefs on the street) being kicked unconscious and needing hospital treatment. "Despite repeated calls on the emergency number, no police officer came to the scene of the offence," Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. Crimean authorities, including the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor's Office, have refused to tell Forum 18 what action police have taken to protect victims from threats and violence, and to identify and punish attackers.
25 April 2006
UKRAINE: "Uncanonical and diabolical schismatics shouldn't exist"
Fr Anatol Curtev, a priest of the Bessarabian Metropolitanate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, is sceptical that the authorities will protect him and his parish in the village of Kamyshovka in the far south-west of Ukraine from violence. He and his parishioners claimed to Forum 18 News Service that the village's Russian Orthodox priest Fr Aleksei Grecu hit him on the head just before they started their separate liturgies on 12 March to mark the Sunday of Orthodoxy, and that Fr Grecu organised a brutal attack on him in the station of the nearby town of Izmail on 12 April. "It's a complete lie – I didn't hit him [Fr Curtev] or organise the attack," Fr Grecu told Forum 18, but admitted he was interviewed by police. "But if he's doing evil, what are we supposed to do? They're uncanonical and diabolical schismatics who shouldn't exist on Ukrainian territory." Fr Grecu dismissed any idea that the Bessarabian parish has any religious freedom rights. "We're not for democracy – we're Orthodox."
4 October 2005
UKRAINE: Did authorities crush Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia parish?
Archbishop Agafangel (Pashkovsky) of the Odessa Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) has told Forum 18 News Service that the authorities in western Ukraine have crushed a budding parish of his church, at the instigation of Metropolitan Onufry, the diocesan bishop of the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. The head of the village administration, Vasyl Gavrish, denies claims that he threatened parishioners after the ROCOR parish submitted a state registration application. When asked by Forum 18 whether an Orthodox church from a non-Moscow Patriarchate jurisdiction could gain registration, Gavrish replied: "We already have a parish of the Moscow Patriarchate here." Both Gavrish and parishioners have stated that the state SBU security service was involved in moves against the parish, but the SBU has denied this along with Bishop Agafangel's claim that there was pressure from the Moscow Patriarchate.
30 May 2005
UKRAINE: People barred entry on religious grounds now free to appeal
In a new move, the SBU security police has told Forum 18 News Service that people barred entry by other CIS countries – including Russia – on religious and other grounds can now appeal against any visa bar to Ukraine. Appeals can be made either to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry or the SBU, Forum 18 was told. The move follows the ending of an entry ban against Japanese Buddhist monk Junsei Teresawa. The SBU refused to tell Forum 18 why Teresawa had originally been denied entry, but insisted it was not for religious reasons and denied that there is a religious category for issuing entry bans. Not every religious figure banned from entry by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan has been barred from Ukraine and Latvian-based Pastor Aleksei Ledyayev - barred by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – is now in Ukraine. One of the most prominent recent deportees from Russia was Catholic Bishop Jerzy Mazur, a Polish citizen, but the SBU told Forum 18 that "no-one with the surname Mazur is on the Ukrainian entry ban list".
5 May 2005
UKRAINE: Russian hand behind Japanese monk's entry denial?
Ukraine's security police have refused to explain to Forum 18 News Service why Japanese Buddhist monk and teacher Junsei Teresawa was taken off the train from Poland last night (4 May) and refused entry, while his valid visa was cancelled. But security police spokesperson Marina Ostapenko vigorously denied it is because Ukraine is following Russia's secret police entry ban list. "If Ukraine barred him entry he must have done something here," she insisted to Forum 18 News Service. "What's it got to do with Russia?" Teresawa described the ban to Forum 18 as "unjust, unreasonable and unconstitutional".
16 March 2005
COMMENTARY: No religious freedom without democracy: a lesson from "Orange Ukraine"
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's surprise announcement last month of the abolition of the State Committee for Religious Affairs is a powerful signal to the rest of the region that governments should end their meddling in religious life, argues former Soviet political prisoner Professor Myroslav Marynovych, who is now vice-rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University http://www.ucu.edu.ua in Lviv, in this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org. He regards the feeling in Ukraine that the communist model of controlling religion is now dead as the greatest gain of the "Orange Revolution" in the sphere of religion. Yet Professor Marynovych warns that other countries will find it hard to learn from the proclaimed end of Ukrainian government interference in religious matters without wider respect for human rights and accountable government. Without democratic change – which should bring in its wake greater freedom for religious communities from state control and meddling - it is unlikely that religious communities will escape from government efforts to control them.