Police temporarily detain 27 members of the Youth National Congress in Chernihiv
St. Catherines Church [Katerynska Tserkva] in Chernihiv has once again been made the centre of religious confrontation. On 5 September at around seven in the morning, representatives of the law enforcement agencies and around fifteen men from the “Berkut” special unit detained 27 activists from the
Youth National Congress.
The detention followed an attempt to unblock the Church and transfer it to members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate. The entrance to the Church has for some time been barricade by supporters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. The attempt was on legitimate grounds with the handover papers after completion of work being presented.
From early morning the approach to the Church was heavily guarded by men in civilian clothes. It was moreover unclear whose instructions they were following in positioning themselves there. After the young people were detained and taken to the Chernihiv police station, the minivan in which the activists had arrived was searched. Personal belongings were removed without the knowledge of those detained.
In accordance with an Instruction from the Chernihiv regional administration, the Church, in which until recently there was a Museum of Folk Decorative Art as part of Chernihivs Tarnovsky Historical Museum, was supposed to have been handed over to the Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate. However the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (Natalya Vitrenkos party) and the Party of the Regions blocked entrance to St. Catherines Church, circulating grubby slander about the authorities and the Church.
The first deputy head of the criminal police, police colonel Ivan Petrovych Katerynchyk while questioning the head of the Secretariat of the Youth National Congress, Yaroslav Ilyash, resorted to open threats, saying: “youre be inside, and for a long time”.
During an attempt to receive any kind of commentary from the law enforcement officers regarding the detention, in particular, from the head of the Chernihiv police station, Edward Volodymyrovych Alyokhin, the reception office stated that he was at “an urgent meeting and cannot speak with anyone at the moment”. Having turned to the deputy head of public safety, Oleksandr Vasylyovych Popsuy, we were informed by individuals who did not identify themselves that “he was not prepared to speak with anyone”.
The Public Liaison Centre of the Chernihiv Region Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
The provocative actions by unidentified young people aimed at destabilizing the situation around St. Catherines Church in Chernihiv were halted early in the morning of Tuesday, 5 September, by Chernihiv police officers.
As became known, a group of 26 young people arrived at St. Catherines Church in two minivans – a Mercedes Benz and a Volkswagen a few minutes before seven in the morning. Around the Church at that time there were officers of a public order protection unit of the Chernihiv police, as well as regular detachments of the special divisions of the police “Berkut”, “Griphon” and patrol units (two officers from each of these units), as well as an investigative operations group from the regional Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The young people as soon as they arrived attempted to force their way into the building. However police officers were able to stop the unlawful actions at an early stage and call for reinforcement. The attackers were neutralized. Their attempts to provoke the law enforcement officers to any coercive actions were unsuccessful, and the actions of the police were entirely correct and well-considered.
The whole group of young people was taken to the Chernihiv police station to find out the grounds and details of the incident. It was established that some of them, in the Mercedes minivan had arrived from Sumy from where they had set off at around one oclock in the morning. The others, who arrived in the Volkswagen minivan, came from the Kyiv region. Overall, they included residents of the Sumy, Kyiv, Vinnytsa, Rivne, Kharkiv and Zaporizhye regions.
As the senior representative of the group explained, they planned to enable representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church underthe Kyiv Patriarchate get into the Church premises since the latter are the legitimate tenants of the building. They also intended to move aside the tents which are standing in front of the Church.
The full details are still being established from the participants in the incident and a detailed investigation into the circumstances of the situation of conflict is underway.
The conflict over St. Catherines Church in Chernihiv has raged since the beginning of July this year. Those involved link the conflict to the signing on 5 April of an Instruction from the Chernihiv Regional State Administration No. 151 on handing the Church on a lease basis to a congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church underthe Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP). Up till now the Church has housed the Museum of Folk Decorative Art as part of Chernihivs Tarnovsky Historical Museum. Some of the exhibits have been taken away, while others remain packed up inside the Church building. The Church is a part of the Old Chernihiv National Historical-Architectural Reserve and remains under its financial control.
The decision to hand the building over to be used as a place of worship by the congregation of the UOC KP provoked strong opposition from the part of the population who support the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. The anger has been taken up and used by particular political forces. Since the beginning of July the building of St. Catherines Church has been surrounded by protest tent, and there has been a 24-hour guard by the forces of law and order.