By Nadia Bazuk, VT Correspondent in Ukraine
- Zhitomir region, Baranovka town, temple of the Nativity of the Virgin
- Rovno region, Bushcha village, St. Michael church
- Chernovtsy region, Vaslovovtsy village, Holy Dormition church
- Transcarpathian region, Veliky Bychkov village, Holy Protection temple
- Zhitomir region, Vorsovka village, St. Nicholas Church
- Zhitomir region, Dobryn village, Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God
- Vinnitsa region, Kotiuzhany village, St. Nicholas church
- Rovno region, Malaya Liubasha village, Holy Preotection church
- Chernovtsy region, Mikhalcha village, Holy Dormition church
- Volyn region, Nichegovka village, St. Michael church
- Chernigov region, Olenovka village, Holy Ascension church
- Volyn region, Peski village, St. George’s Church
- Ivano-Frankivsk region, Pokhovka village, Holy Annunciation temple
- Volyn region, Piatidni village, Holy Protection church
- Chernovtsy region, Tovtry village, Holy Dormition church
- Transcarpathian region, Yasinia village, temple of St. George the Victorious
- Chernovtsy region, Zadubrovka village, church of Archstratigus Michael
- Volyn region, Zhidychin village, St. Nicholas church
As it is said in the document, the authorities are to “meet with communities” of the UOC-MP that hesitate whether to join the UOC – probably to exert pressure on them. Those communities which are expected to oppose transfers are marked as “problematic” ones.
Amidst pressure from authorities, it’s no wonder that there aren’t many UOC-MP-wide “voluntary transfers”, and the peak of activity seems to have passed.
Here is a confirmation of another piece by the UOJ about activities across the country. Local departments of Ukraine’ Ministry of Defense are collecting information on upcoming transfers upon the pretext of promoting public awareness. The role of the army is unknown but some members of UOC-MP communities have complained that the local authorities threaten with recruiting them and their relatives to send them to the frontline in Donbas.
It is also noted in the OHCHR Report that on 17 January 2019, Ukraine’s Parliament adopted amendments setting out a procedure for voluntary change of denomination by religious communities. The adopted law No. 2673 indeed contains positive aspects. The decision on joining the OCU (“the change of religious jurisdiction”) is now made by two thirds of a religious community. “Membership in a religious community is based upon the principles of free declaration of intent, and also on the regulations of the charter a religious community”.
Unfortunately, it’s not always observed. Quite often local authorities arrange a voting of the territorial community according to the approved “plan of transfers” with several dozens of the town or settlement residents and claim that it was the meeting of the religious community. In that case the “transfer” of the community from the UOC-MP to OCU is approved by members of another religious community/confession or even atheists. Then, religious community meeting protocols are forged, and the local authorities reregister the UOC-MP parish as an OCU one.
Some votings were arranged secretly, without any notice to the UOC-MP community. There were incidents when UOC-MP followers were restricted from attending the meeting. If the UOC-MP community held its own meeting and as a legal entity decided to stay in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, such vote was ignored by the authorities.
On the ground of the territorial community’s decision, activists often accompanied by OCU priests, radicals and/or the local authorities demand that the keys of the church should be handed over or simply seize them. Provocations involving those who have nothing to do with the religious or territorial community are common. Mass brawls are also take place quite frequently but the police don’t interfere, and often side with the OCU and injure the UOC-MP faithful.
Often the church remains closed – because the UOC-MP community fears that if opened, it will be captured by the OCU supporters, so churchgoers pray outside; or it is sealed by the authorities which intend to resolve the conflict. After that the UOC-MP opponents break in the church with the consent of the authorities, change the locks on the pretext of “inventorying”, and the church is handed over to the OCU.
The active involvement of the authorities is fostered by president Poroshenko’s electoral campaign since he needs a quick and tangible result of the “unification of the Orthodoxy” in Ukraine (that’s what the OCU was created for). But the UOC-MP believers witness an unlawful and violent process, so the tension is rising.
Thus, on 10 March about 600 people participated in a mass conflict between the UOC-MP and OCU followers in the town of Baranovka in Zhitomir region.
After the start of the war in Donbas, illegal fire arms in Ukraine are estimated at hundreds of thousands of pieces. If Kyiv doesn’t ease its pressure on the UOC-MP communities, it’s just a matter of time before a large-scale inter-confessional conflict begins.
Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War. He is a disabled veteran and has worked on veterans and POW issues for decades. Gordon is an accredited diplomat and is generally accepted as one of the top global intelligence specialists. He manages the world’s largest private intelligence organization and regularly consults with governments challenged by security issues.
Duff has traveled extensively, is published around the world, and is a regular guest on TV and radio in more than “several” countries. He is also a trained chef, wine enthusiast, avid motorcyclist, and gunsmith specializing in historical weapons and restoration. Business experience and interests are in energy and defense technology.