Terrorists kidnapped, tortured, and threatened believers in Donbas

Donetsk Oblast – The militant terrorist organization Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) systematically implemented the provisions of its own ‘constitution’, which excludes religious freedom.

This is reported by the Institute for Religious Freedom based on an analysis of information on violations of the rights of believers in the Donetsk region by gunmen of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

On April 15, 2014, masked men with a Russian flag posted anti-Semitic leaflets near the synagogue in Donetsk on behalf of Dennis Pushilin, the self-proclaimed ‘People’s Governor’ of the DNR.

“All citizens of Jewish nationality over 16 years of age residing in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic are required to apply for registration with the Acting Commissioner of Nationalities in room #514 of the Donetsk Regional Administration building prior to May 3, 2014. The registration fee is 50 USD,” the leaflet said.


On May 9, at the checkpoint in Kostyantynivka, terrorists shot Father Pavlo Zhuchenko, supernumerary priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and rector of the Aleksievo-Druzhkivka parish. According to media reports, the priest tried to reason with the gunmen, who were Caucasus natives, and they opened fire.

On May 15, in a special statement, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) said there were “numerous cases of threats to the life and health of the clergy and faithful of the UOC-KP, obstructing the activities of the Church in the eastern regions of Ukraine, controlled and encouraged by Russian terrorist and separatist forces.”

The statement indicated that armed men broke into the temples of the Kyiv Patriarchate and demanded that the clergy immediately submit to the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate. The terrorists ‘declared the death penalty’ for the priests of the Kyiv Patriarchate. The current environment poses a real threat to the life of the clergy and believers of the UOC KP in Donetsk and Luhansk areas.

On May 16 in Sloviansk, terrorists captured Bishop Oleksiy Demidovych, head of the evangelical association Ukraine Church of God, and held him in the basement of the local Security Service building for about seven hours.

During this time, DNR terrorists repeatedly invaded the house of worship of the religious community Good News in Sloviansk, where O. Demidovych is a senior pastor, in order to use it as a firing position for snipers.

On May 23 at lunchtime in the center of Donetsk, about 15 gunmen with identifying marks of the DNR and St. George ribbons crushed the interfaith prayer tent on Constitution Square. At the time of the attack, there were two clergymen present.

The attackers took their equipment, batteries, speakers, microphone, and banner, tore the tent down, and threw it into the river Kalmius. The gunmen threatened: “If believers gather here for prayer this evening, they will all be shot.”

Immediately thereafter, Serhiy Kosiak, one of the organizers of the prayer tent and pastor of the religious community Assembly of God, went on his own initiative to negotiate with the terrorists in the Donetsk Regional State Administration. He was beaten and released after four hours.

On May 25, DNR militants decided to ‘nationalize’ the Protestant house of worship in Gorlivka. The invaders staged their headquarters in the building, which previously housed the religious community Church of Christ and the Bible Institute Bear Valley, and the believers were put on the street.

On May 27 at noon, Father Pavel Vitek, a Polish Catholic priest, was abducted by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk during a street prayer. He came to the city to participate in an ecumenical prayer service in Constitution Square, where there is a daily prayer for peace in Ukraine.

The priest went to Donetsk to release and assist Jan Sobilo, bishop of the Kharkiv- Zaporizhzhya Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, and Jakub Volonsevich, Consul of Poland in Donetsk. Following the negotiations, the terrorists released Father Pavel Vitek, after he spent almost a day in the basement of the local Security Service office, which was captured by militants.

On May 27, Bishop Jan Sobilo told Vatican Radio that the activities of the separatists in the Donbas is daily worsening the situation of religious freedom.

“The situation is getting harder every day. Rebels and separatists have paralyzed the city. In Kramatorsk a few days ago, a chapel was fired upon with a machine gun. Windows are smashed, believers are afraid to come to Mass. Priests, even if believers are gathered, cannot get there because this part of the city is surrounded. We have the same situation in Luhansk, Donetsk, Sloviansk, and Gorlivka,” said the Catholic Bishop.

In light of these facts, it should be mentioned that on 16 May, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic adopted their own ‘constitution.’ Article 9 of the document indicated that “the initial dominant faith is the Orthodox faith… as practiced by the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)” in the territory of the DNR.

The so-called ‘constitution’ of the DNR also states: “The historical experience and role of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) are recognized and respected as systemic pillars of the Russian World.”

Recall that on May 12, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the results of the separatist ‘referendum’ which took place in the Donbas must be implemented within the framework of a dialogue between Kyiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry responded to the Russian statement, stressing that with such comments the Kremlin directly encourages illegitimate actions of the separatists.

On May 16, the General Prosecutor of Ukraine officially recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic as terrorist organizations.

Source in English: irf.in.ua

Source in Ukrainian and Russian: irs.in.ua

Translated by Julia Vituk, edited by Robin Rohrback

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