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Ukraine Raids Russian-Affiliated Churches

Recently captured Ukrainian sailors have been sent to Moscow to face charges of illegal border crossing.

4 December 2018

Russia has partially lifted its blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan has said.


“The Berdiansk and Mariupol ports have been partially unblocked,” as of 3 December, Interfax-Ukraine quotes Omelyan as saying.


“The ships can now proceed through the Kerch Strait towards the Ukrainian ports. They are stopped to be inspected by the Russian party as before; however, navigation has resumed to some degree,” he said.


The eastern Ukrainian factories and farms that export goods through the ports will welcome the news, even as tensions remain high more than a week after Ukrainian and Russian naval ships clashed in the Kerch Strait.


The interior of an Orthodox church in Lviv, Ukraine. Image via unclebumpy/Flickr.


Ukrainian police and security services raided three Orthodox churches affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchy yesterday. Searches were also carried out in the homes of priests, a spokeswoman for the police in northern Ukraine told AFP.


No one was arrested, the spokeswoman said, adding that the raids were part of a probe into possible violations of the law on equality of religious belief.


The  Moscow-affiliated Orthodox church’s bad relations with Ukrainian congregations that sprang up since the breakup of the Soviet Union became icy when the spiritual head of Orthodoxy, Patriarch Bartholomew, declared Ukrainian Orthodoxy fully autonomous, arousing a furious response from Russian church and political leaders.


The Russian Orthodox Church fears Ukraine may try to take control of churches and monasteries that remain faithful to the Moscow Patriarchy, AFP says.


More than 20 Moscow-affiliated priests have been summoned for questioning by the SBU security service, the Russian Orthodox Church said Sunday. The head of Kyiv’s prominent Pechersk Monastery is being investigated for “inciting hatred,” The Associated Press reports.


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sought to reassure members of the Moscow Patriarchate churches, saying on Saturday that the state guarantees their constitutional right to freedom of religion.



  • A lawyer for one of the 24 Ukrainian sailors seized by the Russian navy during the Kerch Strait clash said on 29 November that 21 of the men were being transferred from Crimea to the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow. The other three sailors are receiving medical treatment at a different, unspecified detention center, RFE/RL cites Russian authorities as saying.


  • The sailors have no complaints about the conditions of their custody or medical treatment, and lawyers have access to them, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova told a Russian TV station yesterday.


  • A lawyer for another sailor confirmed yesterday that all 24 have been charged with illegal border crossing.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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