Head of a Roman Catholic church driven out of Crimea


As feared, it seems that the occupation regime’s demand that religious communities re-register according to Russian legislation is being used as a weapon to remove many churches that have long existed in the Crimea.

Father Piotr, the head of a Roman Catholic parish in Simferopol has been forced to leave the Crimea, and fears that the future of the parish is in question.  Dmitry Makarov from the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission reports that Father Piotr, a Polish national, provided all necessary documents in applying for a residence permit. 

After being turned down by a special commission, he even managed to be seen by the occupation regime’s ‘prime minister’ Sergei Aksyonov and ‘prosecutor’ Natalya Poklonskaya.  Both assured him that the grounds for the refusal would be checked, and that there would be no problem. 

They lied, and Father Piotr was forced to leave the Crimea without the problems having been resolved.

Makarov notes that the failure to hold to their own promises hardly adds to people’s trust of those now in power in the Crimea.

Religious communities and institutions in the Crimea are currently having problems re-registering, with many priests from other countries also now needing to obtain temporary residence permits. 

Concern was expressed by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations back on Oct 20 regarding the demand for all Ukrainian religious communities to re-register by Jan 1 2015 in accordance with Russian legislation.  They warned that believers in the Crimea, especially Ukrainian nationals, were threatened with a ban on hold religious services and religious activities.

There has been pressure on all Christian churches, except the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, since Russia’s invasion of the Crimea. 

At the beginning of June believers at a church under the Kyiv Patriarchate in the village of Perevalne outside Simferopol were attacked by armed pro-Russian ‘Cossacks’, and the church itself seriously vandalized.  The assailants were later joined by ‘self-defence’ vigilantes who claimed to be looking for members of Right Sector, the far right party which Russia has been demonizing since before its invasion and annexation of the Crimea.   

The police only arrived much later and essentially took the side of the attackers.  The Kyiv Patriarchate’s press centre reported that both the assailants and the police claimed that their behaviour was because the Kyiv Patriarchate was carrying out what they called ‘anti-Russian activities’.

A number of Greek Catholic priests, Orthodox priests from the Kyiv Patriarchate and at least one rabbi were basically hounded out of the Crimea.

As reported here, Crimean Muslims have also come under particular pressure, with armed searches of mosques, religious schools and private homes and increasing abuse of Russia’s dangerously broad ‘anti-extremism’ legislation.  Within a couple of months of occupying and annexing the Crimea, veteran Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemiliev reported that FSB officers were quite overtly carrying out surveillance in Crimean mosques.  See, for example, Bogus claims of ’Muslim radicalism’ as weapon against the Crimean Tatars

Halya Coynash

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