The Church and the War: How Long Will the Ukrainian Church Exist in the Occupied Crimea?
Archbishop Clement near the Ukrainian military unit. Photo by A. Kowalski
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The Church and the War: How Long Will the Ukrainian Church Exist in the Occupied Crimea?

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The systematic destruction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (now the PCU) in the Crimea began immediately after the illegal annexation of the peninsula by the Russian Federation. The church and its leader, Archbishop Clement, publicly condemned the Russian aggression in Crimea, participated in the defense of Ukrainian military units during the occupation, and became the only Ukrainian cell that survived after 2014. During almost 6 years of occupation of Crimea, priests were intimidated and talked to about “cooperation” with Russian special services, numerous courts and legal pressure, physical obstruction and seizure of churches with the theft of church property. Human rights activists and religious scholars are convinced that the Kremlin is violating fundamental religious human rights and current international instruments in the occupied Crimea.

The Church and the War: How Long Will the Ukrainian Church Exist in the Occupied Crimea?
Archbishop Clement near the Ukrainian military unit. Photo by A. Kowalski

In 2014, the administration of the Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in principle refused to re-register in Crimea under Russian law, a country that illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula. In fact, this refusal led to the persecution of clergy and believers of the UOC-KP and the seizure of the property of churches that operated and are operating in the temporarily occupied territory in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine.

As a result of the pressure on the religious community during the years of temporary occupation of the territory of Crimea, there was a sharp decrease in parishes and priests of the UOC-KP. Prior to the occupation of the Crimean peninsula, there were 49 religious communities (parishes, missions, fraternities, monasteries), and now there are 7 left. Of the 23 clergy on the peninsula, only 4 continue their work.

 

CERTIFICATE

provided by the Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church KP (PCU)

As of February 27 , 2014 As of 01.11.2019 p.
Religious organizations Property Priests Religious organizations Property Priests
 49  27  23  7  14  4

Let’s analyze the facts that testify to the oppression of the Ukrainian church in the Crimea

One of the forms of persecution of the UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate in the Crimea was the seizure of church premises. Back in 2014, the UOC-KP deprived at least two churches in the Crimea. For the past two years, the church has been fighting for the main building – the Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Prince Vladimir and Olga, as well as for other rooms located in Simferopol at Sevastopol, 17. These rooms on May 16, 2001 by the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea transferred to the Crimean Diocesan Administration of the UOC-KP. Premises with a total area of ​​1475.7 square meters were transferred to the church for free use until 2050.

In March 2014, the occupying Crimean authorities, in violation of international and Ukrainian law, began to dispose of state, municipal and private property. On April 18, 2014, Vladimir Konstantinov (at the time of the annexation he headed the Verkhovna Rada of the ARC) by Resolution № 2059-6 / 14 amended the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea of ​​May 16, 2001 № 1801-2 / 01 “On Transfer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to the Crimean Diocesan Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate part of the building located on the street. Sevastopol, 17, in Simferopol “. Of course, Ukraine did not agree to such changes, and therefore, such actions are illegal. This resolution transfers to the Crimean Diocesan Administration of the UOC-KP all the same property with an area of ​​1475.7 square meters, on the street. Sevastopol, 17, in Simferopol for rent until 2050,but with the determination of the rent rate according to a certain method of calculation.

01.06. On the 14th in the village of Perevalne, Simferopol district, the church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary was seized. In May 2017, it became known that the premises where this church was located were transferred to the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate.

In June 2014, the Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, located in Sevastopol, also ceased to exist. For some time, his abbot held services in his own apartment, but “communication” with the FSB and legislative changes adopted by the Russian Parliament (the so-called “laws of Yarova” – 07/06/16 № 374-FZ “On Amendments to the Federal Law on Counterterrorism and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation in terms of establishing additional measures to combat terrorism and public safety “and 06.07.16 № 375-FZ” On amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation in terms of establishing additional measures to combat terrorism and ensuring public safety “ ,which came into force on July 20, 2016. According to the new legislative changes of preaching, prayer should be performed exclusively in specially designated places. Violation of this rule entails criminal liability) led to the fact that the religious community ceased to exist. 

In 2015, the Ministry of Property and Land Relations of the Republic of Crimea continued to put pressure on the religious community of the UOC-KP, significantly increasing the rent for the use of real estate in Simferopol on the street. Sevastopol 17-A, which housed the Crimean Diocesan Administration, the Crimean Orthodox Spiritual Center, as well as the Cathedral of Saints Volodymyr and Olga, and began a lawsuit to evict the KPDC.

But the most important “innovation” is the calculation of rent. The Crimean authorities set the rent at 90,906.62 rubles per month. Until 2014, the UOC-KP used the premises free of charge. Representatives of the UOC-KP have repeatedly appealed to the Crimean authorities to preserve the former terms of the lease (ie free use), as the church cannot pay such money. (More information can be found in the monitoring of the Crimean Human Rights Group ( https://crimeahrg.org/uk/category/monitor-3/ )

In addition, in May 2015, the so-called “Ministry of Property and Land Relations of Crimea” organized a tender in the form of an auction for the right to enter into a lease agreement for part of the premises used by the UOC-KP, namely the Crimean Orthodox Spiritual Center. This is a part of this property with an area of ​​112.6 square meters on the ground floor of the building at vul. Sevastopolskaya 17, Simferopol. As a result of the auction, the winner was a public non-profit movement to promote the development of small and medium-sized businesses in the Republic of Crimea “MIND”, engaged in business consulting. Thus, the representatives of this movement must occupy part of the premises located in the same building as the UOC-KP. The Crimean “Ministry” informed the representatives of the UOC-KP that on August 21, 2014 the lease term for a part of the 112.6 sq. M.m on the ground floor of the building at st. Sevastopolskaya 17. However, this was announced in 2015 – after the auction.

Representatives of the UOC-KP appealed to the Arbitration Court of Crimea to invalidate the decision of the Crimean “ministry” regarding the part of the 112.6-square-meter building that has been in use by the UOC-KP since 2004. However, the Ministry of Property and Land Relations of Crimea filed a counterclaim. In this lawsuit, the “ministry” demands not only to vacate part of the premises of the UOC-KP (112.6 sq.m. property for the period from August 21, 2014 to September 30, 2015 “in the amount of 591128.65 rubles.

On January 21, 2016, the full text of the decision of the Arbitration Court (on 16 sheets) was posted. The court dismissed all the claims of the UOC-KP representatives, but the court satisfied the counterclaim of the “Crimean Ministry”. As a result, Judge I.A. Sokolova obliged not only to vacate the premises with an area of ​​112.6 square meters on the ground floor of the building at vul. Sevastopol 17, the city of Simferopol, but also to collect from the Crimean Orthodox Spiritual Center a penalty in the amount of 591128,65 rubles. In addition, the court decided to recover from the Center in the “federal budget revenue” court costs for the consideration of the counterclaim in the amount of 16383 rubles.

“Such material sanctions and attempts to seize part of the premises of the UOC-KP are a serious threat to the existence of the church in the Crimea. In addition, if part of the premises (it is about 112.6 square meters) is occupied by OND “MIND”, the business consultants will be constantly passing through the premises of the Cathedral. In addition, all the communal communications of the building itself are concentrated on these square meters , ”Archbishop Kliment believes.

In 2016, the Crimean Diocesan Administration of the UOC-KP deprived part of the premises in the center of Simferopol by the decision of the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Crimea. 14.07. 16 Sevastopol Court of Appeal ordered the Crimean Eparchy of the UOC-KP to pay the Ministry of Property and Land Relations of the Republic of Crimea half a million rubles in fines and release 112 square meters. m on the ground floor of the Cathedral in Simferopol.

On November 8, 2016, representatives of the Crimean Property Fund tried to seal the first floor of the Cathedral of Saints Volodymyr and Olga of the UOC-KP. Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea UOC-KP Kliment called on the world community to protect the national, cultural and religious rights of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea.

On August 31, 2017, Russian security forces blocked the cathedral in the city of Simferopol, bailiffs illegally confiscated church property from the church – crosses, icons, church utensils. During the intrusion of the bailiffs into the cathedral, the Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea of ​​the UOC-KP Kliment received injuries. The complaint against the actions of the bailiffs was sent to the local “police”, which did not find any corpus delicti in their actions, and the appeal in court was ineffective.

On February 5, 19, the UOC-KP in Simferopol received a letter from the Ministry of Property and Land Relations of the Republic of Crimea on the early termination of the lease agreement for the premises where the Cathedral of the Holy Apostolic Princes Volodymyr and Olga is located. The reason for the eviction was the lack of re-registration of the religious community in accordance with the requirements of Russian law. In the letter, the occupation authorities demand that the Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (PCU) Kliment, sign an agreement to terminate the lease agreement within 20 days and vacate the building within the next 10 days. A month later, at the bus station in Simferopol, Russian security forces detained Archbishop Kliment – he planned to go to Rostov-on-Don to the Ukrainian political prisoner Pavel Hryb to perform religious rites (confession,Communion). He was held in two police stations for more than 6 hours and released.

In March 2019, the Ministry of Property Relations of the Republic of Crimea filed a lawsuit against the early termination of the lease agreement for the premises in Simferopol, which houses the Cathedral of Saints Volodymyr and Olga. The basis is a debt in the amount of UAH 2.95. and a fine in the amount of UAH 5.24, which allegedly arose in 2016. Bishop Kliment claims that there is no debt and there are payment documents for it.

Also in March, it became known that illegal construction work had begun on a plot of land allocated to the Crimean Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2013 for the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. The plot is located on Kyivska Street in Simferopol. Now there are works on geodesy, equipment is working, construction materials are imported. Work has begun on the construction of a temple – but which, it is not known, was previously claimed by the FSB of the Russian Federation.

” In 2015, I received a letter from the occupation administration of Simferopol, which states : ” Please, in accordance with the Land Code of the Russian Federation to transfer the right to use the land by voluntarily waiving the right of permanent use of land land plot of the Federal Security Service of Russia in the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol for the construction of apartment buildings, “- said Clement.

March 29, 19 the occupying “authorities of the Republic of Crimea” filed a lawsuit to vacate the building in the center of Simferopol, which is now occupied by a new Ukrainian church structure – the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (PCU), as it is “state-owned”. The occupying power also justifies its decision by the fact that the religious organization has not yet re-registered, and therefore is outside the legal field of the Russian Federation.

April 23, 2019 In order to preserve the religious community, Archbishops of Simferopol and Crimea decided to register a separate religious organization called the Ukrainian Orthodox Parish of Saints Prince Volodymyr and Princess Olga in accordance with Russian law, but the so-called “Office of the Ministry of Justice in the registration of the parish in the city of Simferopol.

In June, a Moscow-controlled “court” in Crimea decided to seize its main church, the Cathedral of Saints Prince Volodymyr and Princess Olga in Simferopol, in the Crimean eparchy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which also houses the diocesan administration. According to the court’s decision, the building must be handed over to the so-called “Ministry of Property and Land Relations”, and the Crimean eparchy of the PCU must also pay court fees in the amount of 12,000 rubles (now it is almost 5,000 hryvnias). The following month, church property was stolen from the Cathedral of Saints Prince Volodymyr and Princess Olga of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (PCU) in Simferopol. A few weeks earlier, without the knowledge of the Crimean Diocese of the PCU, builders dismantled the roof, which led to the flooding of the church premises and damage to property,a fence was erected around the building, windows and doors were removed. All these “repair” works are carried out on the instructions of the occupying power, namely the so-called “Ministry of Property and Land Relations of the Republic of Crimea.”

The Crimean eparchy of the PCU appealed to the Russian court with a cassation appeal against the decision of the Crimean “court” to confiscate property from a religious community and transfer it to the so-called “Ministry of Property Relations of the Republic of Crimea.” In September 2019, the Arbitration Court of the Central District of Kaluga of the Russian Federation began consideration of the cassation appeal. On November 14, 2019, the Arbitration Court of the Central District of Kaluga rejected the cassation appeal of the Crimean Diocese of the PCU, the clergy were obliged to vacate the premises of the Cathedral in Simferopol within 5 days.

In August, more than 50 Crimean parishioners of the Cathedral of Princes Volodymyr and Olga of the Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) (Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine) wrote an appeal to the UN Human Rights Committee on religion. On September 6, 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee addressed a request to the Russian Federation: “Do not evict the community from the temple in Simferopol.” On September 20, 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee again demanded that the Russian Federation refrain from evicting the religious community of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine from the Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Prince Volodymyr and Princess Olga in Simferopol. Crimean authorities claim that they have not received UN recommendations on the PCU temple in Simferopol.

On November 6, 2019, the so-called “Evpatoria City Court” (judge – Lobanova GB) ruled in absentia to demolish the church of the Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (PCU) in Evpatoria. Thus in the decision it is specified that dismantle of a religious construction has to be carried out by community of the same temple.Summons

 Dokumenty z sotsmerezhi rechnyka PTSU Yevstratiya Zori 48/5000 Documents from the social network of the spokesman of the PCU Evstratiya Zori

https://www.facebook.com/yevstr/posts/2533524126695856

On December 7, it became known that the premises of the Cathedral of Saints Volodymyr and Olga in Simferopol, Crimea, were robbed. This was reported to the media by Archbishop of the PCU Clement.

“When I was not in the Crimea, repair workers robbed us. The theft took place on the second floor. Illegally broken doors, old wooden, under the guise of repairs, new ones are installed. Radio equipment was stolen from the second floor. This morning I told the foreman to return the equipment to me. He sent me, “Kliment said.

During all the years of occupation, every time there was harassment, attacks, robberies, trials involving the UOC, Archbishop Kliment informed the Ukrainian authorities, presidents, and the public in writing (appeals), held personal meetings, and held numerous press conferences. We sent an appeal to Ukrainian officials from the newspaper “Krymska Svitlytsia” and asked them 5 questions, in fact, to better understand what they have done or not done within their powers in less than 6 years.

  1. What measures are taken by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to protect parishioners, believers and priests of the Crimean Diocese of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Ukrainian Orthodox Church)?
  2. What legal acts were initiated by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to protect the rights of religious communities engaged in church activities in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol?
  3. Why the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine did not adopt changes and additions to the Draft Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of January 31, 1996 «143 “On the transfer of real estate of military towns vacated by the Black Sea Fleet to transfer free of charge to the ownership of the Office of the Crimean Diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate the building № 1 of the military town № 119, located at vul. Sevastopol, 17, apt. № 548 in Simferopol of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea ”, the proposals of which were proposed and sent by the Representation of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to resolve the issue of protecting the existence of the Crimean Diocese of the UOC-KP in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.(Proposals to resolve this issue were sent by letters of the Presidential Representation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on №01 / 354 / 01-08 dated 14 July 2015 to the Government Commissioner for the European Court of Human Rights, on №01 / 281 / 01-08 dated 29 July 2015). May 2015 to Vice Prime Pierre Minister – Minister of culture of Ukraine , according №01 / 199 / 01-08 of 29 April 2016 to Prem` Minister of Ukraine). In addition, in 2018, the President of Ukraine instructed the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on this issue (Letter to the President of Ukraine Archbishop KLIMENT of Simferopol and Crimea dated May 19, 2018 on №01 / 02-08).
  4. Were there any appeals of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to law enforcement agencies regarding the protection of the state premises located on the street Sevastopolskaya, 17, in Simferopol of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, leased by the Crimean Diocese of the UOC-KP (now the Crimean Diocese of the UOC-KP), in connection with its seizure by the Russian so-called “Republic of Crimea” authorities and so-called occupation decisions courts of the Russian Federation?
  5. How are the issues of protection of the rights of believers and protection of the state premises leased by the Crimean Diocese of the UOC-KP (now the Crimean Eparchy of the UOC) in the city of Simferopol of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea planned to be resolved?

Excerpts from the documents are given below:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine stressed that on December 22, 2018, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution on the Crimean issue 73/263 “The human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Sevastopol (Ukraine)”, which condemns the pressure on religious communities, in particular, representatives of the UOC-KP and representatives of other denominations.

Also, the situation with the destruction of temples was drawn attention to in Washington, in July 2019 during the Second Ministerial Meeting on the Promotion of Religious Freedom and in November this year at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council.

Document of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of UkraineDocument of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine stressed that today, in the current legislation there are no mechanisms for the transfer of part of the property complex on the street. Sevastopol is owned by the PCU, and the Ministry of Culture has no opportunity to resolve this issue on its own. However, in the end, officials propose to develop a draft “special political solution” that will address the issue of property transfer. Naturally, the question arises: “Why, after almost 6 years of annexation of Crimea, there is still no such” political decision “?

Document of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine noted that there is no legislation on decision-making on the disposal of property belonging to the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

Document of the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine

The Ministry of the Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine noted in the letter that since the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea ceased to exist, it is impossible to amend the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Document of the Ministry for the Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine

The Ministry of Justice emphasized that there are 5 interstate cases against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. In one case, complaints were filed about the persecution and harassment of religious organizations in Crimea.

Document of the Ministry of Justice

Finally, a response from the Office for Documentation of Official Activities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine , which reports that from 2014 to 2019, letters from the Cabinet of Ministers regarding the protection of public premises located in Simferopol, at st. Sevastopolskaya, 17 (Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Princes Vladimir and Olga) were not received (!) And were not accounted for (!). That is, the facts of persecution of religious communities, seizure of church property, seizure of temples are not recorded, and no one will be responsible for it?

Document of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine

Also significant is the fact that in their answers the officials ignored the last question “How do you plan to address the protection of the rights of believers and the protection of public premises leased by the Crimean Diocese of the UOC-KP (now the Crimean Diocese of the UOC) in Simferopol? This indicates that the authorities have no plans to protect the Ukrainian church in annexed Crimea and the church’s property. This also means that Archbishop Kliment and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are left alone with the repressive Russian (read, Soviet) machine in Crimea. .

There is no doubt that the persecution of religious communities will continue and additional systems of control and pressure will be created, as Russia, as an occupying power, has always pushed and will push / destroy “those who disagree” with its policy, especially if property could be confiscated. For the Ukrainian authorities, defending and protecting the church and property is a kind of test of maturity. But will she pass it with dignity?

 The material was prepared by Elena Halimon

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