- In June-September 2015 there is an exacerbation of socio-political situation in Ternopil region on religious grounds. In particular, certain individuals are spreading calls for the seizure of religious buildings which belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The information resource of the «Right Sector» has posted information that this structure will provide legal, power and information support to persons wishing to go into the denomination of the Kiev Patriarchate.
- Using the scheme of the so-called «referendum», by which supporters of the Kiev Patriarchate call common meetings of the part of the village community, people interested in seizing religious buildings of the UOC submitted documents on amendments to the statutory documents of religious communities of the UOC in the villages of Bashuky, Kulykiv, Kolosova of Kremenets district. In addition, the confrontation started in Katerynivka village, Kremenets district. Religious communities of the UOC sent a number of appeals to the Ternopil Regional State Administration, the district and regional Prosecutor’s Office, the Department of Internal Affairs, which provided a full explanation for the fact that the religious communities of the UOC in vlgs. Bashuky, Kulykiv, Kolosova of Kremenets district, are separate legal entities with their own governing bodies – the parish meeting, and only these governing bodies are authorized in accordance with the statutory documents or the laws of Ukraine to decide on statute change. The local authorities were informed that our religious communities had not taken decisions on the transition to another denomination.
- Meanwhile, documents submitted by residents of vlgs. Bashuky, Kulykiv, Kolosova, who are not members of the parish meeting, resulted in the start of interfaith talks with representatives of the OSCE mission, which took up the function of the observer in this conflict. In order to achieve mutual understanding, a faceto-face meeting of Metropolitan of Ternopil and Kremenets Sergiy with the head of the Ternopil Regional State Administration S. Barna was held, where the authorities were notified of the systematic attempts of the «Right Sector» and the Kiev Patriarchate to commit a forcible takeover of our churches. S. Barna was warned that further escalation of the conflict could lead to unpredictable consequences in view of the fact that individuals, who identify themselves as supporters of the Kiev Patriarchate and members of the «Right Sector», use threats towards our parishioners, exert pressure, wearing balaclavas and camouflage uniforms, carrying about knives, in some cases even guns. These actions are accompanied by incitement to religious hatred, in particular, charges of the UOC faithful in the «pro-Moscow position», «financing Moscow», etc. They are spreading offensive slogans that «each candle bought in the church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a bullet in the back of a Ukrainian soldier”.
- Representatives of the UOC religious communities of vlgs. Bashuky, Kolosova, Kulykiv, Katerynivka of Kremenets district, have repeatedly appealed to the law enforcement authorities with claims on violations of their rights and interests, which resulted in opening a number of criminal proceedings. But by these proceedings, unfortunately, no effective investigation has been conducted yet; the authority does not fulfill its function of providing law and order. In some cases they do not even carry out the examination of witnesses on the applicant’s side. Appeals of our communities to the President of Ukraine, prosecutor’s bodies, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ombudsman of the Verkhovna Rada for Human Rights in Ukraine also did not bring the desired results. There is an impression that the authorities deliberately neglect the flagrant violations of the rights and interests of our communities.
- The situation of confrontation in the region has aggravated in August-September 2015 due to the fact that S. Barna, contrary to decisions of the Kremenets District Court of Ternopil region and despite numerous requests from the faithful of the UOC, registered amendments to the statutes of the UOC religious communities of vlgs. Bashuky, Kolosova and Kulykiv, by which these communities are subject to the denomination of the Kiev Patriarchate. Such actions of Mr. Barna were apparently illegal, particularly in view of the fact that on 26.08.2015 the Kremenets District Court injuncted to make changes to the statute of the religious community of Kolosova village. But in spite of this decision, on 28.08.2015 S. Barna signed a directive to amend the statute of our religious community and resubordinated it to the Kyiv Patriarchate, thus demonstrating the apparent lack of respect for law. On 04.09.2015, the UOC believers attended an appointment with S. Barney and demanded an explanation for the failure of the court decision. S. Barna explained that he «did not know» about such a decision (although the Ternopil Regional Administration is a party to court proceedings on the case), and promised to set a commission on revoking of his order, made despite the court injunction. But such a commission has not been established. Instead, on 04.09.2015, in fact, during the reception of our parishioners S. Barna signed another order – to amend the statute of the religious community of Bashuky village, Kremenets district, also contrary to the decision of the Kremenets District Court, which on 02.09.2015 restrained the Ternopil Regional Administration from making any changes to the statutory documents of the UOC religious community of Bashuky village.
- Taking these orders, the Ternopil Regional State Administration acted contrary to the legislative findings of the Kremenets public administration, the village councils of Bashuky and Kolosova, which on the request of the Ternopil Regional State Administration reported that the religious communities in the villages of the UOC actually exist and are not willing to change religious affiliation. It should be noted that during the preparation of these findings officials of the Kremenets RSA and village heads worked under the pressure by representatives of the «Right Sector» and supporters of the Kiev Patriarchate to force these individuals to provide findings on the feasibility and expedience of religious affiliation. One of the facts of the aggressive behavior of these individuals is an attempt to do
acts of violence against representatives of the OSCE mission, foreign nationals who arrived in the village of Bashuky to initiate interfaith dialogue. A great number of unidentified people attempted to overturn a foreign vehicle with official marks of the OSCE mission in order to prevent them from meeting with local residents – members of the religious community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This fact was publicly notified to law enforcement officers and prosecutors during the talks in the Kremenets RSA, who heard comments of Bashuky village head on this account.
- Simultaneously with the above actions
- Barna signed a statement of claim to the Ternopil Regional Administrative Court, which asked to revoke the right of ownership of the church building, which belongs to a religious community of Kolosova village beneficially owned, justifying their actions by the fact that this church is supposedly the state-owned, which does not correspond to reality (the church was built by the religious community of the UOC). Such actions have been assessed by the UOC believers as being similar to the actions of the Soviet communist government confiscating church property in 1918.
- On 07.09.2015, the head of the Ternopil Regional State Administration S. Barna signed an order on the establishment of alternating (with the Kiev Patriarchate) use of the church, which has belonged to the religious community of the UOC of Katerynivka village since 1946, in accordance with the agreement made with the Soviet power, which is still valid and recognized by the legislation of Ukraine. The message of our believers that the church cannot be transferred to the alternative use because of the agreement signed with our community and not terminated yet, was ignored.
- According to the order of the head of the Ternopil Regional State Administration S. Barna, each religious community – the
Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – is to enter into a separate agreement, which will contain the terms and the schedule for the use of the place of worship. On 09.10.2015 the Kremenets Regional State Administration signed an agreement on the use of the church with the Kyiv Patriarchate. The community of
the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was not even sent a copy of the draft contract.
- Immediately after the adoption of the above order on the alternate use of the church in Katerynivka village, the Kiev Patriarchate supporters activated their attempts to seize the religious building of the village, which belonged to the UOC community. As a result of such efforts and failure on behalf of the authorities to protect the rights and interests of people, the believers were forced to lock the building and serve outdoors. Meanwhile, the official position was not clear, because according to this order the alternate use of the church by religious communities of the UOC and the UOC-KP was supposed to be made by securing an agreement with each religious community (UOC and the UOC-KP) separately. But such an agreement was not even offered to our religious community. And representatives of the Kiev Patriarchate have just announced that they can conduct service in the church now. The same position was taken by the head of the Kremenets District Office of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in the Ternopil region.
- On 09.21.2015, in Katerynivka village there was a public worship on the occasion of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Religious communities of the UOC and the UOC-KP celebrated the divine service without collisions next to the closed church out in the open air. But around 15.00 representatives of the Kiev Patriarchate by breaking a window got into the premises of the church, broke open the front door, entered the church and began the evening service. After that, the faithful of the UOC religious community of Katerynivka village arrived at the church. The representatives of the Kiev Patriarchate refused to allow them in. The confrontation was witnessed by the head of the Kremenets District Office of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine and representatives of the DMIA in the Ternopil region. Officials of the Kremenets DSA and the Ternopil RSA were not present. Entrance to the church was blocked by representatives of the Kiev Patriarchate, who formed the first line up at the church doors, police officers who formed the second line, and militants of the «Battalion Ternopil», who appeared at the direction of the MIA authorities after the UOC followers refused to leave the parish territory. Suddenly, without any reason, the soldiers of the battalion «Ternopil» started beating people with rubber truncheons, though the presence of the UOC faithful was peaceful. Among the believers of the UOC were a lot of youngsters. People were bashed on the head, kidneys and limbs. As a result, they suffered serious injuries – fractured limbs, broken heads – and had numerous hematomas and minor injuries. The total number of victims is more than 15 people.
- It should be noted that DMIA authorities who ware present in the territory of Katerynivka village behaved aggressively and provocatively demanding, without any explanation, that believers of the UOC should not only give up any attempts to get into the owned building but also leave the church territory. Such demands were supported by the statement that our community supposedly “did not agree to a compromise”. Surprisingly, there were no officials of the Kremenets DSA and the Ternopil RSA, who would be authorized to address the issue related to the order of the church use. The «operation» on conflict resolution was entirely carried out by force units.
- After numerous calls of the injured to the Emergency Medical Service, it turned out that health care providers refused to come to the village of Katerynivka, despite of severe injuries in humans. Immediately after the events the representatives of the «Right Sector» appeared in the Kremenets district hospital and pressed medical workers for the information about people who had applied for medical assistance in connection with the incident in Katerynivka village.
- On September 22, after the mass bashing of people and the beginning of media coverage campaign, the Kremenets DSA called out representatives of the UOC and the UOCKP to force the senior priest of the religious community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to sign an agreement on alternate use of the church. At that, the UOC community had no possibility to make any suggestions and changes to the text of the agreement.
- Following the legal statements to the police on severe beating of the faithful, the authorities reported about the opening of criminal proceedings on the abuse of power by law enforcement officials and on offering resistance to public officers.
- On 25.09.2015 was held a press conference with the Head of the Department for Religious and Ethnic Affairs of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine A. Yurash, the Head of the Department for Religious Affairs of the Ternopil Regional State Administration V. Kulchytsky, at which the parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were accused in the attack on police workers, collaboration with the Russian security services and other illegal actions.
According to the officials, who represent the interests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Head of the Ternopil Regional State Administration S. Barna takes the position of openly lobbying the Kiev Patriarchate, which resulted in further destabilization in the region. The UOC community finds this official entirely responsible for the mass bashing of people in Katerynivka village and the adoption of illconceived and illegal orders, which has already led to violations of the rights and interests of the residents of Ternopil region.
To learn more about religious freedom infringements committed against the UOC believers you are encouraged to consult our detailed reports and statements:
- Collection of Information Materials and Documents “Facts, Evidence and Claims Regarding Violations of the Rights of Believers and Religious Organizations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2014-2016”.
- Written Statement of the NGO “Public Advocacy” within the United Nations 28th Universal Periodic Review on Ukraine.
- Written Statement of the NGO “Public Advocacy” on the violations against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church within the United Nations 37-th Regular Session.
- Statement of the NGO “Public Advocacy”