war crimes in Ukraine

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Human Rights in Ukraine - 2005: V. Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion


1.   General overview

As of 1 November 2005 there were 30 thousand religious organizations in Ukraine, of which 29,731 were religious communities of 55 different denominations or faiths. These figures included 67 centres and 227 administrative boards, 378 monasteries, 298 missions, 75 brotherhoods, 173 seminaries and 12,039 Sunday schools. Church matters in Ukraine were tended to by 27,902 priests. For their worship, religious organizations used 20,607 religious buildings or buildings adapted for worship.[1]  The statistics here do not include figures for unregistered religious communities.

2005 saw no fundamental changes in the situation as far as freedom of conscience and religion was concerned, with legislative regulation and administrative practice remaining virtually unchanged. For this reason, the information, together with the conclusions and recommendations made in “Human Rights in Ukraine – 2004”[2] remain relevant today.

By the end of 2005, according to the Deputy Head of the State Department on Religious Affairs, M. Novychenko, around 400 cases relating to freedom of conscience had been considered by the courts. In 2005 the most controversial norms of the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” remained unchanged which led to and indeed continues to provoke numerous complaints, and is frequently a source of conflict.  Problems arise over, for example, religious groups having a single structure forced upon them, places of worship needing to be shared by two or more religious organizations, limitations on the rights of foreign nationals, the permission-based system for holding religious gatherings and others.

  As well as discussing these issues relating to freedom of conscience and religion, we will also consider significant violations of civil rights observed in conflict linked with the property of religious organizations, especially with regard to the return of previously confiscated property or the transfer of a religious congregation to another Church together with the property it owns. Important issues also remain pertaining to the limitations on freedom of religious gatherings and the unwarranted restrictions on the rights of foreign nationals.

  The Supreme Court of Ukraine revoked the ruling of the Kherson Regional Appeal Court on transferring the Svyato-Mykhailivsky Church in the village of Kalininske (the Velykooleksandrivsk district of the Kherson region) to worshippers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP), Conflict in the village began back in summer 2003 when the Orthodox congregation of the Kalininske settlement decided to move from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) to the Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate.

This was followed by mass protest actions by priests and supporters of the UOC MP, the excommunication of several official figures (the Archbishop of Kherson Ionafan proclaimed an anathema on the former head of the regional state administration), the beating up of the leaders of the “rebel congregation”, processions with miracle-working icons, publications in the press, meetings with the leadership of the regional state administration, as well as several court hearings. On 11 February 2004, the hearing of the Kherson Regional Appeal Court ended with a ruling declaring the claims of the Eparchy of the Moscow Patriarchate unfounded. Until the ruling of the Supreme Court, the church was in the possession of the UOC KP.  Following the last ruling, the UOC MP began improperly formalizing all the necessary documents for establishing the right of ownership over the church in Kalininske, and Archbishop Ionafan directed accusations at the new head of the regional administration for procrastination.  During a Christmas service attended by many believers, including representatives of the authorities, he is reported by the local media to have said that the head of the regional administration was “possessed by the Devil”.  This aroused bemusement among representatives of other faiths, as well as comments from the head of the administration himself. In the eparchial department of the UOC MP it was stated that this had all been the distortion of journalists, and shortly afterwards the head of the regional administration was honoured with a high church award of the UOC MP by Archbishop Ionafan.

Ukrainian legislation continues to seriously restrict freedom of religion for foreign nationals and stateless individuals. This is manifested in the fact that they cannot found organizations or engage in preaching or other religious activity. These restrictions, moreover, affect people who are permanently resident in Ukraine.  Such restrictions are illustrated in the following examples.

In 2005, with the formal pretext being an application from the Department on Religious Affairs for the Ternopil region, a citizen of Poland, Father Volodymyr Sovinsky, was refused permission to engage in pastoral work for the parish of the St. Stanislav Church in Chortkiv (Ternopil region). The real reason, in the opinion of the Roman Catholic congregation, for suspending Father Volodymyr’s mission was probably the renewed applications to have the premises of the male monastery of the Dominican Order in Chortkiv returned. 

In May 2005 a Buddhist monk from Japan, Junsei Teresawa, was at the border refused entry into Ukraine. The Press Secretary of the SBU (Security Service), Marina Ostapenko, stated that Ukraine had no criticism of the Buddhist monk, but that he had been on a list of people banned from entering Russia or the CIS since July 2002.  She added that Ukraine was fulfilling its agreements within the framework of the CIS. The ban had been imposed after his deportation from Russia for holding a march for peace through Chechnya.   This was not the first visit of the well-known Buddhist monk to Ukraine – he was in the country during the Orange Revolution which he actively supported. The Buddhist monk addressed a letter to the President of Ukraine in which he expressed his bemusement that he should be considered a threat to Ukraine’s national security. On 20 May a group of Buddhist activists held a picket outside the SBU building in Kyiv. They called for the ban on Junsei Teresawa’s visit to Ukraine to be revoked. Later the press service of the Buddhist Nipponzan Myohoji Order, which Junsei Teresawa is a leader of, stated that according to information from SSU lieutenant Volodymyr Anufriyenko, Ukraine had decided to revoke the ban on Junsei Teresawa’s entry into the country, and that members of the Nipponzan Myohoji Order in Ukraine believed that their open letters to President Viktor Yushchenko and the then Head of the SBU, Oleksandr Turchynov, had influenced this decision.

Throughout 2005 the local authorities contravened Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine by continuing to illegally limit the right to religious gatherings by demanding that permission be obtained to hold them.

According to information from the Institute for Religious Freedom such incidents were recorded in the town of Bila Tserkva in the Kyiv region when agreeing the holding of an Easter Procession by the congregation of Evangelical Christians.  An overt violation of the right to freedom of religion and peaceful religious gatherings was the Decision issued by the Donetsk City Executive Committee approving Rules and Procedure for holding public events. This limits the ability of Donetsk residents to hold events of a religious nature in central areas of the city, and imposes the requirement on every occasion for consent to be obtained for holding gatherings, marches, etc.  During autumn 2005, believers from the congregation of the Christian Church “The Word of Life” experienced enormous difficulties holding meetings on the central square of the city or even receiving the decision of the Donetsk City Executive Committee and the official letter from the Deputy Head on banning peaceful gatherings. Despite protest from the Prosecutor’s office, the Donetsk City Executive Committee did not revoke its normative act passing the Rules and Procedure for public events in Donetsk.

In Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk attempts were recorded by particular officials of the local authorities to impede the holding of regular services by religious organizations. This was expressed in demands that the religious communities obtain consent every time to hold their weekly services and that they conclude rent agreements for the premises. Without such consent from bodies of local self-government religious bodies could not make rent agreements for state or municipal premises or buildings.

The Mayor of the town of Dubrovyts in the Rivne region, Mykola Stovla, rejected the application from the archpriest of the UOC MP, Father Fedir Derkach, to allow Orthodox communities from taking part in the official celebrations around the thousand-year anniversary of the town.  The press service of the UOC MP state that he justified his refusal by saying that the Head of the Rivne Regional State Administration, Vasyl Chervony “would like to only see members of the UOC KP at the ceremony”, this being the Church which the Governor himself belongs to.

Problems remain with exercising the right to alternative military service on the grounds of religious or other convictions. The Ministry of Employment and Social Policy issued Order No. 250 on 9 August 2005: “On approving forms of reporting No. 1-AC “Report on the carrying out of alternative (non-military) service and the waiving of conscription to military training on the grounds of religious convictions” and instructions on filling out these forms. The establishment of a clear form for reporting will facilitate the monitoring of how the constitutional right to an alternative to military service is implemented in practice. Unfortunately in 2005 the twice-longer period of such alternative service, as well as the lack of the option of alternative service on moral or political grounds remained intact.[3]  There is a problem and a certain degree of absurdity in the need to provide documents certifying ones religious convictions and in the possibility of these convictions being “checked”, as well as in the fact that this right is effectively possible to obtain only where the individual belongs to a registered religious organization despite the fact that such registration for religious groups is not compulsory. Another problem is the choice of places for doing alternative service which is much too limited if one considers the positive experience of other European countries.

These problems are highlighted in the answer to a formal request for information to the Commission on alternative (non-military) service of the Ministry of Employment and Social Policy.  This letter № 54/021/150-06 from 30 March 2006, signed by the Deputy Minister V. Tyotkin, states[4]

„In 2005 602 applications for alternative service were submitted to regional commissions on alternative (non-military) service. Following review of these applications 535 citizens were sent to do alternative (non-military) service, and 67 citizens were turned down, 37 young men because they had not submitted their applications on time, 11 due to lack of any confirmation of the genuine nature of their religious convictions, and 25 because for no valid reason they failed to appear at the commissions’ hearings”

One can only make surmises as to the reasons for refusals to allow the exercising of their right, as well as what is meant by the phrase “lack of any confirmation of the genuine nature of their religious convictions”.. It is also clear that a large number of people are refused this right on purely formal grounds, for example, because they have missed the deadline for applications, which is clearly an excessively harsh approach.

Regulation of the amount payable in rent by religious organizations using state property also remains an issue. The Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine from 29 October 2005 No.1033 introduced amendments to Appendix 2 of the Methods for calculating and rules of using lease payments for state property, in accordance with which the rate for religious organizations was fixed at 3% of the value of the immovable property as defined through expert assessment (on land which is not used for commercial activities and the size of which does not exceed 200 square metres). This question was not worked out properly, and therefore the decision reached by the Cabinet of Ministers does not take into consideration the specific aspects of the activities of religious organization and was an inadequate response to the proposals put forward by religious organization in the letter from the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations from 13 April 2005.



The process by which Ukraine is casting off its totalitarian legacy is moving slowly, and in many ways inconsistently. The state authorities continue to seek religious-moral legitimacy for their actions, as well as espousing a paternalistic ideology manifested in the retention of state policy with regard to virtually every aspect of an individual’s life, including religion.

In 2005 attempts were made to fundamentally change the principles of relations in the area of freedom of religion. For example, in May an Action Plan was approved for implementing in 2005 the Program of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “Towards the people”.  In the first section of this, under the title “Faith”, some of the priorities of the government are declared to be “the establishment of constructive cooperation between state and religious organizations; the unwavering adherence to the principle of separation of the state and Church;  the creation by the state of equal conditions for the activities of religious organizations; ensuring that there is no pressure put to bear on such organizations and encouragement to religious organizations to take part in carrying out their natural social functions.”

One does, however, need to mention that by the end of the year virtually no measures had been taken to implement these declarations from the government; at least not one draft law had been submitted. The President of Ukraine took an active position as guarantor of the right to religious freedom, on many occasions stressing that this was one of the priorities of his policy. “Each shall be able to pray in his or her own place of worship.  Everyone will be guaranteed the right to his or her own opinion”. At a meeting with the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations in June 2005, the President spoke of a number of unregulated questions in the religious sphere, in particular, the use of land, taxation, tariffs on gas and water, simplified procedure for registration and for receiving humanitarian loads, and stated that he would instruct the government to resolve these issues.  The President has often publicly demonstrated his own religious beliefs and has taken part in religious ceremonies.

During the year the President made a number of statements about the religious situation and about religious rights,  met with leaders of religious organizations in Ukraine and abroad, and also issued several documents, in particular, the Instruction “On measures for implementing state policy in the sphere of inter-ethnic relations, religion and the Church from 23 September 2005 and Decree No. 1647 “On priority measures to enrich and develop culture and spirituality of Ukrainian society” from 24 November 2005.

The President and other high-ranking officials have on many occasions expressed their support for the creation of a single Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church. One cannot deny the positive aspect in the development of this issue, however at the same time such statements would appear to significantly run ahead of the actual state of inter-church relations, particularly given the number of conflicts between the Churches.  In such conditions similar statements are often perceived as state bodies imposing a united Church, a new re-distribution of church property, etc.  A draft Resolution was even tabled in the Verkhovna Rada on the danger of such statements, however it was not considered by parliament. In our opinion, such utterances are reflected in an unspoken ban on registering other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine.  

State policy in the sphere of religion was implemented through a specially created state body – the State Committee on Religious Affairs and its regional departments.

In the last Report, we noted that the present situation could not be retained. In order to enable the Committee to properly perform its functions, its powers needed to be increased. This, however, would automatically lead to an extension of state regulation and to a restriction of freedom. On the other hand, it would then be better to simply disband it through the lack of any direct need for such a committee, and transfer its registration function to the Ministry of Justice.

Changes in state – religious relations were evidenced by the reorganization of the State Committee on Religious Affairs.  President Yushchenko signed Decree No. 701 “On issues of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine” from 20 April 2005 in accordance with which the functions of the disbanded State Committee were transferred to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. A month later, on 26 May, a government .Resolution No. 390 “On the creation of the State Department on Religious Affairs” within the structure of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine” was issued.  Provisions regarding this structure were approved on 18 August by Resolution No. 770 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.

The main task of the State Department on Religious Affairs, according to Article 3 of the Provisions, remains “taking part in carrying out state police on religion, the Church and religious organizations, promoting greater mutual understanding between religious organizations of different faiths, resolving, within the bounds of its competence, issues in dispute arising in the relations between these organizations”.  An analysis of the entire document leads one to conclude that the only real change is the reduced status of this body of state management, and also less clearly formulated powers.[5]

Basically, the functions and powers of this body were not actually reviewed. The change in its status has changed nothing of principle in carrying out religious policy in the country. This policy continues to be implemented without an overall program, defined goals and priorities.  Moreover, the part of the President’s Instruction on preparing such a program was not taken into consideration.  The body of power now implementing state policy is effectively deprived of any influence on registered religious organizations, and it is often itself the source of inter-religious conflict, especially when the local authorities openly take the side of one of the dominating  religious organizations. With this approach the state will never resolve the range of problems in this sphere which have accumulated over the last more than ten years of total inaction.

A classic example of the dysfunctional and incompetent nature of the new body is the response from the State Department on Religious Affairs to a formal request for information (Letter No. №6-512/21-С-15/31 from 23 March 2006, signed by the Director of the Department, I. Bondarchuk)[6]  

“According to the Department’s information, in 2005 there were no cases involving the violation of the human right to freedom of conscience, religion and worship recorded by structural divisions of religious affairs of regional state administrations.  There were however conflict situations between religious organizations connected with disputed property issues pertaining to the ownership of sites, as well as with regard to the shared use of places of worship by local residents of different faiths in the following: the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea – 4;  the following regions: Vinnytsa – 8; Volyn – 4; Donetsk – 1; Zhytomyr – 2; Transcarpathian – 5; Zaporizhye  - 3; Ivano-Frankivsk – 7; Kyiv – 4; Lviv – 18; Poltava – 1; Rivne – 5; Sumy – 1; Ternopil – 25; Kharkiv – 3; Kherson – 1; Khmelnytsky – 13; Cherkasy – 1; Chernivtsi – 11; Chernihiv – 2 (in all – 119)”

Such distancing from the problems of the limitation of freedom of religion by the state is typical and demonstrates a total lack of will to change the situation for the better.

An additional link in the chain of state bodies was the Adviser to the President on religious affairs, within the Secretariat of the President. In 2005 the number of appeals from members of the public to state bodies increased, including those on matters to do with religion.

Increased activity in state – religious relations in 2005 was also seen at the regional level. . Modelled on the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, councils representing religious organizations were formed within regional administrations in most regions.  Such formations were also promoted by President Yushchenko at a meeting with governors in June: “I would like to highlight in bold your task to organize normal relations with the religious congregation in your region. I assure you that if we do not have worthy spiritual mentors around us who bless us in our labours, then we will have nothing. Therefore our relations must be absolutely loyal in relation to the activities of the Church.”  The President issued a clear instruction to the heads of regional state administrations giving them 15 days to organize at regional level the relevant councils and invite representatives of all religious organizations present in the region to take part in the councils in a process of constant dialogue.

By the end of June 2005, that is, within the period which the President had stipulated, meetings took place of heads of the regional state administrations (RSA)  in several regions of Ukraine (Mykolaiv, Kharkiv), then in July and August – in the Zaporizhye, Luhansk, Transcarpathian, Khelmnytsky, Volyn, and Rive regions, and in Kyiv and Odessa. According to reports from religious organizations and press services of the RSA, the meetings took place in a business-like atmosphere; the regional leaders expressed their willingness to assist religious organizations in resolving any problems that arise in the course of their activities. This, in particular, concerned the allocation of land for building places of worship, a reduction in the rent payments for land, and communal charges, In most regions these meetings between the authorities of the region and representatives of religious organizations now take place on a quarterly basis.

Another interesting initiative came from the head of the Kherson RSA, Boris Silenkov. In July 2005 he issued an Instruction “On measures to resolve immediate problems in the activities of religious organizations of the region” in which regional main departments of land resources and major construction were ordered to ensure personal and active control over the review of applications from religious organizations to be allocated sites for building places of worship and carrying out other tasks according to their charters, to provide all possible assistance to religious organizations in resolving the said issues in accordance with established procedure. There was an additional proposal for religious organizations active within the Kherson region to establish a zero rate, or reduce to a minimum the size of the rent for land, and also establish prices for electricity, gas and other communal charges at the level of tariffs for the population.  In addition, with the same Instruction, the Kherson Customs Department and the Main Department of Social Security were advised to simplify the procedure for religious organizations receiving humanitarian loads aimed at implementing socially important charitable programs in the region.

The President’s Instruction on creating inter-faith councils within regional state administrations was thus carried out. According to the results of monitoring, a council of religious organizations was only not created in Lviv which has one of the highest levels of conflict in state – religious and inter-faith relations in the country.

Although the creation of inter-faith councils has not significantly influenced the established form of state-religious relations in the regions, and some faiths continue to organize their relations with the authorities in a “one-sided manner”, the experience in those regions (Odessa, Kherson and Volyn), where the religious organizations themselves have shown interest in the existence of such inter-faith councils, enables us to hope that in the future such structures will provide a good basis for effective cooperation.

Due to the activity of the Head of the Rivne RSA, conflict arose between several religious organizations. With his Instructions № 413, № 415, and № 417 from 9 September and № 497 and 498 from 20 October 2005,  Mr Chervoniy changed rulings which had functioned since the beginning of the 1990s on registering the charters of religious organizations, and transferring to them places of worship.. The instructions effectively transferred the places of worship which belonged solely to the local communities of the UOC MP into a situation where services were shared by local communities of both the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate and of the Moscow Patriarchate UOC.  One of the communities, moreover, changed its subordination and transferred to the UOC KP together with its church.

Parliament became involved in the conflict through the creation n 2005 of a Temporary investigative commission of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to investigate cases of violations of the rights of citizens to freedom of conscience.  In its report in November the commission established that there had been breaches by state officials from local state executive bodies of current Ukrainian  legislation when dealing with issues pertaining to the transfer of places of worship and property of religious organizations, leading to a worsening in inter-faith relations (Rivne and Ternopil regions). The decision was taken to continue the commission’s work. Moreover, on 24 February 2006, following hearings in parliament on the said issues, the State Deputy P. Sulkovsky stated that the Commission’s findings had been sent to the Prosecutor General and that the Volyn regional prosecutor’s office had confirmed that there had been violations of the rights of religious communities by the Head of the Rivne regional state administration.

Earlier, on 1 November 2005, Sulkovsky asserted that: “Chervony is issuing instructions about changes and additions to the statutes of religious communities without the consent of their members. In the last few days he dismissed the head of the department on religious affairs of the Rivne regional state administration, Ihor Sokolovsky, who had adhered to the state position of neutrality towards the Church. Then V. Chervony, through his Instructions, made changes in the department on religious affairs and appointed as the head a priest of the UOC KP, Stepan Marynyn.”[7] 

It is, however, clear from the documents that the changes introduced by Mr Chervony’s Instructions involving rulings on the register of charters and the transfer of places of worship were only carried out with regard to the transfer of such buildings, while no changes to charters were made. The given assertions are not, therefore, in keeping with the facts.

Given this it would seem that the actions of the local authorities were indeed to the benefit of one of the religious organizations, namely the UOC KP. Such a bias from local authorities was just the latest example of conflict artificially provoked by the ill-considered and extreme actions of the authorities. However the said actions were carried out within the framework of Ukrainian legislation which does not provide too much protection from such discrimination. In addition, the conflict was used for political gain by the “Party of the Regions” in order to discredit the Head of the regional state administration

On 19 October the Verkhovna Rada supported a Deputies’ appeal from a group of State Deputies concerning the worsening of inter-faith conflict in Ukraine and the actions of law enforcement bodies and local authorities with regard to the religious communities of the village Rokhmaniv in the Shumsky district and the village Stinka in the Buchatsky district of the Ternopil region.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Yury Lutsenko, has spoken on many occasions of the willingness of the police to cooperate with religious organizations in order to raise the moral and spiritual level of law enforcement officers.

The Minister of Defence, Anatoly Hrytsenko, at the end of 2005 met representatives of the Church and other religious organizations. During the meeting the issue of spiritual and pastoral care for military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was considered, as well as the creation of a Christian program for spiritual education of military servicemen. Representatives of the army and of the clergy discussed issues around creating an inter-faith council within the Ministry of Defence.

A great deal of attention in 2005 was devoted to the issue of spiritual care for military servicemen. Within many Christian Churches there are departments which deal with pastoral (chaplain) service in military units. Until recently representatives of some Churches complained that their clergy were not being allowed into military units and that there was a certain monopoly for the UOC MP which had concluded agreements with various enforcement bodies. These complaints are not heard at all these days. However some representatives of those religious organizations included in the “List of religious organizations whose teachings do not permit the use of weapons” have expressed a wish to carry out missionary activities among military servicemen.  At the present time negotiations between the Church and representatives of the enforcement bodies are focusing not on missionary activities, but on pastoral care for those believers doing military service.



In 2005 a large number of legislative initiatives in the area of religious rights failed to be registered. However, there was a considerable rise in the thematic variation of proposals tabled for review in parliament and in the level of active discussion.  This was not lastly connected with the increased activity of the religious organizations themselves, their awareness of their rights as members of society and their lobbying of their interests through State Deputies who share their concern at the gaps in legislation. On the other hand, one should stress the fragmentary nature of the draft laws proposed, the lack of new proposals for a comprehensive resolution of the issues. In this situation one can only welcome the fact that not one “new-old” version of a draft Law “On amendments to the Law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations” was put forward.

Most of the proposals pertained to longstanding, but no less burning problems of religious organizations, such as:

the elimination of double registration (the draft law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to some laws of Ukraine” (due to the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On state registration of legal entities and individuals – entrepreneurs”, registration No. 7250 from 25 March 2005 р., the authors – State Deputies Y. Yekhanurov, V. Dubytsky; the draft Law of Ukraine on introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On state registration of legal entities and individuals – entrepreneurs”, registration № 4389-1 from 3 June 2004, author – State Deputy V. Musiyaka);

establishment of the right to found general education institutions (draft Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to some laws of Ukraine” (on the creation by religious organizations of general education schools), registration No. 8002 from 18 July 2005, author: State Deputy Y. Boiko);

establishment of the right to permanent use of land (the draft Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to Article 92 §  2 of the Land Code of Ukraine” (on the right of religious organizations to use land on a permanent basis), registration No. 8409 from 3 November 2005, the authors – State Deputies V. Stretovych, O. Bilorus, Y. Sukhy and others.

All of the above-listed draft laws were rejected, and some quite simply did not reach the stage of a parliamentary vote[8]

In May 2005 the Cultural and Spiritual Development Committee of the Verkhovna Rada in session also rejected the draft law “On the financing by the state of religious communities” (draft law № 6051 from 21 August 2005, registered by State Deputy L. Chernovetsky) as contravening the Constitution of Ukraine. The draft proposed for example, “to allocate 100 million UH from the Ukrainian State Budget for the support of religious communities which pray for the well-being of society and of the state, for the spiritual and physical health of the leaders of Ukraine”.

One of the draft laws which was approved by the Verkhovna Rada at its first reading and accepted as the basis on 22 January 2005 specifies the conditions for having the right to a postponement of military service and to be freed from military training (draft Law No. 8047 from 29 August 2005 “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On universal military duty and military service” (the new version of the Law) at the initiative of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine).

There was lively debate over a legislative initiative from the State Deputy V. Spivachuk on “banning the activities of totalitarian religious sects” (Draft Law № 8397 from 2 November 2005 р. „On introducing amendments and supplements to the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”).  According to the explanatory note to the draft law, its objective is “normative legal endorsement of a ban on the activities of totalitarian religious sects and the procedure for minors exercising the right to freedom of conscience”.  The draft law’s author is convinced that totalitarian religious sects are socially harmful and that their followers undergo psychological and financial pressure, and may be drawn into illegal activities, and that minors are in particular danger. As examples, the author cites the activities of such organizations as the Unification Church, Scientology, the Cult of Satanism, the Transcendental Meditation Society, the White Brotherhood. The inadmissibility of this proposal, as the result of debate over the draft can be seen as a litmus test for the observance of the demands of democratic society both of the legislators themselves, and of the representatives of Ukrainian Churches.

For example, in the draft Resolution № 8397 from 27 December 2005 State Deputy O. Bilorus expressed the view that the said draft law was inadmissible since its “implementation could lead to friction in inter-faith relations and, as a result, in society”. Moreover, the provisions of the law could “become a legislative basis for the persecution of citizens on religious grounds, and the norms of the draft have been written in such fashion that absolutely all religious organizations and their members could fall within its force.” 

It should be added that current legislation has enough norms for protecting citizens from the destructive influence of any, not only religious, organizations.  For example, there is Article 6 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” and Article 181 of the Criminal Code.  Furthermore, according to information from the State Court Administration of Ukraine one person was convicted in 2005 under paragraph one of that Article.



In Ukraine one needs to receive “legal entity” status in order to engage in virtually any formal religious activities, at least for those involving worship in a building, holding public services or inviting representatives of foreign religious figures, printing or otherwise disseminating literature, etc

Unregistered communities encounter problems with organizing religious events, inviting religious figures from abroad, arranging alternative (non-military) service etc. Clearly such restrictions are a violation of religious freedom since the right to organize religious services, study and teach religion, publicize ones own beliefs and other activities have a direct impact on the human right to freedom of religion and should not be contingent upon the legal status of an organization.

  It is important to stress that for some religious groups it is extremely important to have the possibility of not registering since the lack of any contact with the state authorities is a part of their teaching. This, for example, is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses (of whom at the beginning of 2005 there were 626 registered and 345 unregistered communities), as well as some groups of followers of certain eastern religions, some pagan teachings and certain Protestant communities.  In addition this is the possibility to legally exist for religious groups who, for varying reasons, have less than 10 members.

  The law lacks any clear definition of the legal status of the activities of unregistered religious groups, as a result of which there are sometimes cases of abuse of this status.  For example, we are aware of cases where unregistered religious communities rent premises for religious activities from state or educational institutions which in Ukraine is prohibited by law.

  Although according to the law religious organizations have to register their charter, in practice they are required to provide many other documents as well.[9]  That means that essentially it is not the charter which is registered, but the organization itself. It is important to note that the establishment by the legislators of an exhaustive list of forms of religious organizations: a religious congregation, departments and centres, monasteries, religious brotherhoods, missionary societies (missions), seminaries and associations made up of the said religious organizations are a clear violation of the right of individuals to determine the form of their own religious association, as well as of the right to autonomy of the religious group itself, an element of which being the independent determining of its structure and independence in its form of management. 

As regards the time required for registration – in accordance with Article 14 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”, this constitutes 3 months, including all necessary consultations. However, in practice, the process can drag on for 6 months or more. For example, the Progressive Jewish Community in Kharkiv reports that it took the local authorities a year to review their application for registration before issuing a positive decision. A local Buddhist community in the same city also reported that they had been trying to register changes to their charter since November 2005, however as of April 2006, they had still not received registration.  Each time the executive body had made additional comments or demanded other documents, yet had refused to issue a formal refusal to register the amendments to the charter.

Of the over 40 parish communities of the Donetsk – Kharkiv Exarchate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) which underwent re-registration in 2005, problems with procrastination over the procedure were experienced only by a community active in Dnipropetrovsk.

As the Institute of Religious Freedom reports, difficulties have also emerged recently with registering the charters (regulations) of religious organizations in Donetsk and other regions, with examples of officials of departments for religious affairs of regional state administrations demanding that applications for registration of charters (regulations) of religious communities be submitted only after prior arrangement with representatives of the local authorities or bodies of local self-government[10].

The Law of Ukraine “On state registration of legal entities and individuals – entrepreneurs”, which was aimed at standardizing registration procedure and creating a Single State Register of legal entities and individuals – entrepreneurs, came into force on 1 January 2004.  Its adoption led to legal collisions when registering certain legal entities, in particular, trade unions, civic, political, charitable and religious organizations, since the rules and procedure for their registration were set out in separate laws[11]  One basically had a situation of double registration of religious organizations, first with the State Department on Religious Affairs within the Ministry of Justice, or with local state administrations, then later in the State Registry.

From 2004 – 2005 the Verkhovna Rada considered several drafts for amendments to the given law. At the end of last year, on 14 December, the Law of Ukraine “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On state registration of legal entities and individuals – entrepreneurs” (No. 4389-1) was passed,  with votes from 319 State Deputies. The law adopted effectively consolidated the situation with double registration. However, at the request of leaders of Christian Churches and some human rights organizations, the President vetoed the law.

In summary one should mention that there are two proposals for resolving this problem with double registration.

One option involves stating that the given law does not apply in the case of registration of those organizations and associations (including religious) whose procedure for registration is set down by special laws (the draft law of State Deputy V. Musiyaka from 3 June 2004, registration No. 4389-1).  This proposal was supported by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches. However amendments were made to the draft law before it was adopted which reversed the content, and it consolidated the double registration, leading to a wave of protest and the President’s veto.  Overall, an approach involving separate registration contradicts the very principle of a Single Register of legal entities, and is therefore, in our opinion, hardly expedient.

  The other possibility would be to introduce amendments to the special laws: in the case of religious organizations to Articles 14 and 30, with a stipulation that registration is carried out by the State Registrar, after, for example, the charter has been agreed with the Ministry of Justice.  If one follows the logic of the legislators in creating a Single Register of legal entities, then the next step for implementing this idea should be to transfer responsibility for registration of legal entities from the Ministry of Justice to the State Registrar. At the same time, the Ministry of Justice would retain the functions of monitoring the legality of the registered organizations’ activities. However all these things are closely connected with the reform of the entire weight of legislation on non-commercial organizations.

The situation as of the present day remains unresolved.

One of the most complex problems remains foreseeing the possibility for associations of religious organizations or the Church as a general institution to receive legal entity status. On the one hand, the chance to receive this status to carry out their activities according to their charters is the right of any organization, including religious ones. For religious organizations, the guarantees regarding such a possibility are even more vital given their own internal structure which for some of them is strictly hierarchical. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has on many occasions called on post-Soviet states to “guarantee all churches, religious organizations, centres and organizations legal entity status”  (Recommendation PACE from 24 April 2002 No. 1556) 

On the other hand, for multi-religious Ukraine, where society is not only post-Soviet, but also postcolonial, this is not a simple issue.  Legal entity status for a religious association or the Church as an institution would, in the first instance, give property rights to, for example, the churches which are presently in the possession of individual religious organizations (under the law’s classification communities, monasteries, etc).  Theoretically they belong to one of the faiths, yet the tendency to change, for various reasons, jurisdiction complicates any clear distribution. Current legislation guarantees the right of a particular religious entity in the event that confessional jurisdiction for whatever reason changes to retain the property which that organization acquired. In other words, for the legislators the parish of the UGCC can in several months become the parish of the UOC MP together with its church and property, or vice versa.  With the issue remaining unresolved of former property of religious organizations, expropriated under the Soviet regime which is now in the possession of another order, is used by several religious organizations, or which belonged to one organization and has now been transferred to another – the forcing of the granting of legal entity status to religious associations could heighten old conflict.

At the same time, such a method of regulation violates the structural integrity of a particular religious association, if not de jure, then de facto, and demands if not amendments, then review. Ideally, the state should ensure both possibilities – for the existence of separate religious groups which do not form part of any association, and the right of a religious association with clear hierarchical and other structure.

The situation with registration of the board of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) Canonical (the former UAOC Synodic) remains unresolved. This is being hampered both by a complicated situation in the Church itself, and by the negative attitude to the Church of other Orthodox Churches, as well as by the unwillingness of the authorities to register another Orthodox Church.  In 2004 and 2005 several law suits were lodged by local residents belonging to this Church, however their cases are still with the courts.

Among claimants is a congregation of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) from Hrozyn in the Chernivtsi region.  Representatives of the Odessa – Zaporizhye eparchy of the ROCA report that after the Hrozyn congregation submitted documents for registration, on 1 September 2005 the Head of the Hrozyn Village Council personally went around to all those who had put their signature on these documents. Claiming that he had received instructions from the Security Service (SBU), the head of the council through direct threats that these people would lose their jobs, and that their children could face problems, succeeded in intimidating several people into withdrawing their names.  The next day at a meeting in Chernivtsi of the senior priest of the congregation, Father Oleksandr Lepeka with the head of the regional department of religious affairs, the latter stated that he would never register the congregation’s charter since its presence was not wanted. He would, however, register this charter within two days if the congregation transferred to the eparchy headed by Metropolitan Onufriy of the OUC MP.

On 1 June the Supreme Court of Ukraine reversed the resolution of the former Governor of the Zhytomyr region, S. Ryzhuk, on cancelling amendments made to the charter of the Svyato-Pokrovsk Parish of the town of Malin, according to which the parish had transferred to the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad[12].  The Supreme Court thus declared as lawful the transfer of the parish from the UOC MP to the jurisdiction of the ROCA abroad. The parish also retained their church over which there had been conflict with the other members of the parish who did not wish to change their confessional affiliation.



  If one considers the numerous incidents and the view of the majority of specialists, the land and property issue remains the aspect of state – religious and inter-faith relations in Ukraine most fraught with conflict.

This issue is partially addressed through transferring places of worship and property to be shared by two or more religious communities in accordance with Article 17 of the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”.  Unfortunately, in many cases this has led to situations of conflict between religious communities of different denominations. Disputes over the right of ownership or use of religious buildings and property are most heated in the Transcarpathian, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivne and Lviv regions.

Since property and land issues are normally within the jurisdiction of the local authorities, the scope for abuse and discrimination is vast. In order to resolve this problem, the areas regarding attention now are legislative regulation of the issues involved with returning places of worship and property to religious organizations; the establishment of clear procedure for allocating property, including sites, to religious organizations on a lease basis, or the transfer either for a fee or free of charge, of sites for building places of worship.

  In the Land Code of the Ukrainian SSR from 18 December 1990, religious organizations were granted the right of permanent possession of land, while Article 12 § 5 of the Law “On  payment for land” religious organizations do not have to pay anything for the land as long as they are registered and are not engaging in business activities. However it became virtually impossible to use this concession following the adoption of the new Land Code in 2001. In the current Code, the right to permanent use of a site is defined as the right to possess and use a site which is in state or municipal possession indefinitely” (Article 92 § 1).  And the right to permanently use a site from those which are in state or municipal ownership is only granted to enterprises, institutions and organizations which are state or municipal property. Religious organizations are thus deprived of the right to permanent use of land and therefore to concessions.

In its Ruling from 22 September 2005 No. 5-r/2005 the Constitutional Court of Ukraine declared Point 6 of the Transitional Provisions of the Land Code unconstitutional since it diminished the content and scope of existing rights of citizens to land (Article 22 § 3 of the Constitution of Ukraine). This Point states:

„Individuals and legal entities permanently using sites, but who do not, in accordance with this Code, have the right to this, must by 1 January 2008 reregister according to legally established procedure their ownership or lease rights to the land”.

This makes it possible to hope for a resolution of the given problem. Nonetheless, at the present time, the issue of permanent use of land remains a problem for religious organizations.

A serious problem is posed by the lack of procedure for allocating sites to religious organizations as their own property or on a lease basis, so that they can build places of worship or carry out religious activities. This lack of legislative regulation leads to open or covert discrimination against some organizations.

  When a religious organization deemed as undesirable submits and application to have land allocated, it is told that in order to be granted land, it must state which specific site it would like to receive. This is virtually impossible to find out through legal means since information about the owners of all sites in a populated area is hard to gain access to. When an organization is finally able to locate such land, grounds are found for refusing to allocate specifically that site with no alternative being suggested by the authorities.  Using such methods one can refuse to provide sites any number of times.  On the other hand such applications can be granted quite quickly when submitted by so-called “needed” religious organizations. Sometimes the local authorities do not even attempt to conceal their bias.

The following examples provide vivid illustration of the present situation.

In the village of Stoyaniv in the Radekhivsk district of the Lviv region, a congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate applied on many occasions to the village council to be allocated land on which to build a church. In that area there were also communities of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine.  Orthodox believers from the village were forced to walk several kilometres to another village where there is a functioning Church of the UOC MP.  The village council turned down their application, nonetheless, arguing that the building of an Orthodox Church could provoke inter-denominational tension.

For 12 years the Roman Catholic in Simferopol were refused land to build a church. The last refusal was in spring 2005, the reason given being that the site the congregation had suggested was already occupied. No alternatives were offered by the authorities.

  A religious congregation of the UOC MP in Chortkiv in the Ternopil region has been trying to overcome problems connected with receiving land for more than three years. The believers have provided several suggestions, but all have been turned down.  Instead the City Council proposed two sites – one near a rubbish dump, and the other on the edge of the lake, both of which the congregation categorically rejected. The believers are forced, therefore, to gather in a private flat which is inconvenient both for them, and for their neighbours who have complained to the law enforcement agenices.

  For over 12 years a congregation of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Yalta (the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea) asked to be allocated land on which to build a church. On 22 May 2005, following a positive decision from the Yalta City Council, the land on which God’s Church was to appear was sanctified. However the congregation’s joy was short-lived. The Crimean media  published an open letter from a group of Yalta residents who expressed their “opposition to the allocation of land and the building of a Greek Catholic (Uniate) religious buildings on the territory of Great Yalta”. After this the decision to allocate the land was appealed in the Administrative Court, albeit unsuccessfully.

  For the fifth year now the Church of Christians of the Evangelical Faith in Ukraine (CEFU) have been trying to get land to build a central office in the capital. At present, the Kyiv City Council is considering one of the options in the micro-district Svyatoshyno. Despite the fact that no decision on the land has yet been taken, protest actions are already being held against the possible building. RISU was informed by the information service of the Church of Christians of the Evangelical Faith that this site, with an area of 0.3 hectares on Vidpochynek Street, 5, is the third option proposed by the Kyiv city authorities. The first, suggested by the capital’s Department of Land Resources, while approvals were being obtained, was rejected by the district state administration since a high-rise building was planned. In addition, an Orthodox Church was being built nearby. The second option, suggested by the Church of the CEFU, after a huge amount of work as well as hefty expenses incurred by the Church, was also rejected by the Environmental Service on the grounds that some not yet very old pine trees were growing on the site. The fate of the last of the proposed sites is being considered by the Kyiv City Council. A Spiritual Centre is planned to coordinate the activities of more than 2000 communities of the CEFU.

  Jehovah’s Witnesses are also experiencing difficulties in receiving land to build their place of worship (Hall of the Kingdoms). Throughout 2005 445 applications were submitted by Jehovah’s Witnesses to local authorities asking to be allocated land. Of these, 238 applications were accepted for consideration, while only in 58 cases did the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually receive a permit to lease land. A further 50 applications are still under consideration and it is likely that the majority will be rejected. Another 130 were not allowed with the following reasons being cited by the authorities: in 82 cases – due to lack of free or suitable sites; 28 applications were turned down without any explanation; 14 – lack of votes from deputies because of religious intolerance; 4 – all sites had been put out to tender; 1 – the building did not fit in with local architecture; 1 – the authorities did not want to change the intended purpose of the land. Nor do the cases mentioned where land was allocated mean that the local religious communities can immediately begin construction. Now on average they will need two years in order to obtain 63 approvals from the controlling authorities in order to begin building. The actual construction will not take long – approximately a month and a half. However after that another month to one year will be needed in order to obtain 5 permits for use. Only after that will it be possible to begin using it as a place of worship.



Religious education, being the possibility to freely teach and study the teachings of ones chosen religion is an integral element of the right to freedom of religion and worship. The right to religious education is, furthermore, based on the right to personal development, and the right to education. Finally, this right involves the inalienable right of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their beliefs.

  In Ukraine, according to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” and the Law “On education”  “school is separated from the Church”.  The

Constitution (Article 35 § 3) states this succinctly: “The Church and religious organisations in Ukraine are separated from the State, and the school — from the Church”.

One can with certainty report that in 2005 it was issues connected with religious education which received the most media and public attention.

The following two key issues relating to religious education may be identified:

1)  the inclusion of the study of religion or religious ethics in the curriculum of general state schools;

2) the recognition of higher religious education (theology) and the accreditation of the corresponding educational institutions.

The inclusion of the study of religion or religious ethics in the curriculum of general state schools

The issue itself, regardless of the debate which developed this year, dates back to 1992. It was then that in general educational institutions in the Lviv, Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk regions that following rulings by bodies of local self-government an experimental subject “The foundation of Christian morals” was introduced on an optional basis.

  As of 26 July 2006, according to figures from regional and local education departments, subjects with a spiritual theme (“Christian Ethics”, “Christian Culture”, “Foundations of the Orthodox Culture of the Crimea” and others) are studied in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, in 17 regions of Ukraine and in the cities of Kyiv and Sevastopol, in all in 4,020 general educational institutions, this constituting 19.4% of the total number. This means that around 356,000 students, or 7% of the overall number, study such subjects.[13]

The Ministry of Education and Science, through Order No. 349 from 9 June 2005, took on the responsibility within the framework of measures for implementing the Program of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “Towards the People” of drawing up a draft law “On introducing amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On general secondary education” (on creating conditions for students to study General Ethics as part of the school curriculum and Religious (Christian) Ethics in Sunday schools, however the given draft law did not reach parliament.

After the statement of the President of Ukraine about the need to introduce “Ethics of Faith” into schools, the Ministry of Education and Science tried from September 2005 to include Ethics as a compulsory subject in the curriculum.

However representatives of religious organizations spoke out against such a substitution of concepts. A number of organizations took specific steps to attract public attention and to make progress on resolving the issue.[14]

One should note that opinions were divided on the issue of religious education in schools. Some members of religious and civic organizations insisted on including in the state school curriculum a course in Christian Ethics based on the Bible but without any elements of cultural traditions which might lead to inter-denominational tension. It became clear, furthermore, that the teaching of this subject must definitely be on an optional basis so as not to violate the rights of other religious or atheist groups. This position was shared by most Protestant Churches, the Ukrainian Association for Religious Freedom, as well as analysts from the Razumkov Centre. A somewhat different proposal was put forward by some representatives of the so-called “traditional” Churches. They suggested, firstly, that a course in Christian Ethics should be based specifically on those religious and moral traditions, typical among Ukrainians. They also considered it desirable to make the subject compulsory so that children from other religious and national traditions could learn about the customs which form the basis of Ukrainian culture.[15]

In implementation of the Instruction of Ukraine’s President from 8 July 2005 No. 1-1/657 on overcoming the spiritual and moral crisis in society, the Ministry of Education and Science established a special commission to prepare the content of new optional courses of the Ethics of Faith and Religious Studies. It appointed to the commission well-known academics, philosophers, educationalists, teachers and representatives of different Christian denominations.

At the same time, so as to comply with Article 35 of the Ukrainian Constitution on each person’s “right to freedom of personal philosophy and religion”, the Ministry of Education and Science issued Order No. 435 from 26 July 2005 which establishes the right of parents to choose whether their children,, beginning from the 2005/2006 academic year, study the subject “Ethics” in grades 5-6, or optional courses on moral and ethical issues which are being piloted in the regions. Such courses include “Foundations of Orthodox Culture”, “Christian Ethics”, “Christian Culture”, “Foundations of Muslim Culture of the Crimea”" etc. The Order also allows for students in general educational institutions to study both the subject “Ethics”, and an optional course with a moral – ethical focus.[16]

One should point out that optional courses are supplementary classes which are organized with the aim of broadening and deepening knowledge in a particular area to cater to students’ interests and their parents’ wishes. Parents need to write to the Director of the educational institutions confirming the wish that their children study a particular optional course. The minimum number of students needed to run an optional course is 8, or in rural areas, 4. (Ministry of Education and Science, Order No. 128 from 20 February 2002).  Groups are formed either from one class or parallel classes.  Optional courses are, as a rule, short, being intended for 30 – 35 hours a year. There is no formal assessment of the level attained during these optional courses on moral and ethical issues.

Study programs and textbooks for these optional courses are approved by the relevant scientific and methodological commission of the Ministry of Education and Science  (MES) of Ukraine, in this case, by the Committee for Ethical Issues. The courses are taught by secondary teachers who need a document confirming that they have had the appropriate training on the basis of institutes of post-graduate pedagogical studies.

The position taken by the MES would seem to be correct, but unfortunately it was only clearly outlined this year. By recognizing parents’ rights to decide whether their children receive religious education, the MES have eliminated the threat of religious views being forced on school students, this complying in general with both the Ukrainian Constitution and with international standards in the area of human rights. One can also welcome the clearer definition of the subject of these optional religious studies course, as well as of the procedure for running them.

The recognition of higher religious education (theology) and the accreditation of the corresponding

educational institutions.

With regard to safeguarding the right to higher religious education, one positive move was Order No. 363 of the MES from 16 June 2005 which finally approved amendments to the List of General Areas of Study and Professions for which specialists are trained in higher educational institutes, with the relevant academic qualifications. The List had originally been accepted by the Cabinet of Ministers back on 24 May 1997.  Now under the section “Humanities”, and the sub-heading “Philosophy”, “Theology” has been introduced at three educational and professional levels: a Bachelor’s Degree, “Specialist”, and “Master’s Degree”.  Presumably the next step will be to approve a religious studies curriculum and accreditation of theology institutes.



Provisions in Ukrainian legislation on introducing identification numbers for keeping records on individual tax payers do not directly limit freedom of religion and worship however the issue remains important for many believers of particular religious organizations.

At special hearings entitled “Freedom of conscience and identification numbers” in parliament in 2005, the issue was again discussed of whether ID numbers should be compulsory given the context of religious freedom, with certain recommendations being passed (Resolution No. 2965 from 6 December 2005). In the last report we discussed this issue in some detail. The parliamentary hearings determined that on the one hand the passport system breached the integrity and effectiveness of the automated database of the State Register, while on the other the provisions on a single information system needed to be brought into conformity with the norms of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108).  The recommendations were made in connection with this that consideration be given as soon as possible to the Draft Law “On amendments to the Law «On the State register of individuals paying taxes and other compulsory payments» (on the right to reject individual numbers), Registration No. 3711-1 from 8 October 2003, and that the above-mentioned Convention be ratified.  The proposed alternative means of registration were through a letter or symbol-based form of code.  The Supreme Court of Ukraine in Case No. 6-19685kc03 based on appeals from P. and K. against unlawful actions by the State Tax Inspection in Chernihiv in their Judgment from 17 August ruled that an individual has the right to reject an identification number already allocated.: „In accordance with Article 5 of the Law of Ukraine «On the State register of individuals paying taxes and other compulsory payments» information is not included in the State Register about individuals who due to their religious beliefs refuse to accept an identification number and have official notified the appropriate bodies of this. The Law does not allow for limitations to this norm being imposed on people who had already been allocated an identification number.”



  Article 37 of the Ukrainian Constitution prohibits the establishment and activity of political parties and public associations if their program goals or actions are aimed at, among other things, “the incitement to inter-ethnic, racial, or religious enmity”.

  In 2005 there was a certain increase both in cases involving religious intolerance, and in examples demonstrating an improvement in relations between different denominations in the country.

  On the one hand an increase could be observed in the number of inter-denominational conflicts with the reason in the majority of cases being the lack of clear regulation as regards property issues. One can also mention those cases of religious intolerance which had a church – canonical, ideological worldview or ethnic - religious nature. These would include the misunderstandings between Orthodox Churches, between Orthodox and Catholic Churches and Orthodox – Muslim conflict, as well as confrontation at the level of “traditional – non-traditional” denominations, and also anti-Semitism. One must also mention cases where religious intolerance was fuelled at a public level in the mass media, in education or in the activities of certain organizations.  On occasions such religious intolerance was manifested in acts of vandalism.

The state in turn often simply distances itself from any attempt to resolve the issue. Nor are law enforcement bodies able to ensure personal safety and protect the property of non-mainstream religious organizations. Despite numerous incidents, in 2005 not one person was punished for inciting religious enmity or for extreme expressions of intolerance manifested in damage to religious structures or places of worship.  However criminal charges were laid against 479 individuals for desecration of graves (Article 297 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code).

Examples of religious intolerance in inter-denominational relations

One of the main sources of religious intolerance could be found in the relations between different Orthodox Churches, primarily between the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) and of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC KP). Besides mutual accusations of unlawful or unpatriotic behaviour, representatives of each of these Churches used their influence on the authorities, both local and national, in order to restrict the activities of the other. For example, recently members of the UOC MP, who exert enormous influence on the regional authorities in south-eastern regions, hampered the activities of the UOC KP and of other Churches.  Since the change in regime they have been attempting to continue this policy. However one can now also observe an opposite reaction with attempts being made to use supporters within the new regime by members of other denominations to put pressure on communities of the UOC MP.

In connection with a visit at the end of May 2005 to the Donetsk Region of the Head of the UOC KP, Patriarch Filaret, a main target of attacks from the media and organizations of the UOC MP, a group of clergy and believers of the Donetsk – Horlivsk Eparchy of the UOC MP addressed an open letter to the leaders of the Donetsk region. In it they claimed that the visit was “of a political nature and aimed at provoking and heightening inter-denominational enmity”, and asked representatives of the authorities to refrain from official meetings with Patriarch Filaret.

The Press Service of the Donetsk Eparchy of the Kyiv Patriarchate reported that in the night from 5 – 6 July 2005 an act of vandalism had been committed at the construction site of the Cathedral of Saint Andriy the First-called in Donetsk. “Unidentified individuals” had broken up and stolen a sacred Cross which had been sanctified by the Patriarch of Kyiv and Rus-Ukraine, Filaret, on 30 May 2005, during his visit to the Donetsk Eparchy.  The Press Service stated that certain political – religious circles headed by O. Bazylyuk, the Head of the Slavonic Party, had tried to obstruct this sanctification, and that Bazylyuk, hiding behind phrases about defending Moscow Orthodoxy in Ukraine, was trying to destabilize the inter-religious situation in the Donetsk region. “Such acts of vandalism”, the statement from the Donetsk Eparchy reads, “are becoming a kind of depressing “tradition” for the Donetsk region … and unfortunately some state officials fuel such trends in our region, using concepts like the division of Church and state in order to excuse such actions by religious fanatics of the Moscow Patriarchate, forgetting that such actions are not a manifestation of religious feelings, but real vandalism.”[17]

An even fiercer conflict emerged in the Odessa Eparchy of the UOC MP. The Orthodox congregation of Kamenske in the Artsyzk district of the Odessa region received an instruction from the eparchy management to voluntarily transfer their church to eparchy property. This outraged the congregation led by the Priest Vasyl Vremya. At his meetings, attended by the head and the secretary of the village council, the congregation decided to transfer to the jurisdiction of the UOC KP, and the Bishop of the Odessa UOC KP, Yakiv (Makarchuk) called upon the authorities to prevent the church in the village of Kamenske being taken by force by members of the eparchy of the UOC MP. In response the Council of the Odessa Eparchy of the UOC MP published a statement in which they accused Father Vasyl of infringing the Church’s charter, and the local authorities of interfering in internal Church matters. The Priest was defrocked, and the authorities were called upon to not change the registration of the Kamenske village congregation.

RISU was informed by Father Vasyl that pressure was still being exerted on him by representatives of the Eparchy hierarchy of the UOC MP. Father Vasyl added that members of the UOC MP in the Odessa Region were obstructing the restoration of the Bessarabian Orthodox Metropolitan within the Romanian Patriarchate which had existed in that area before the Second World War.

In western regions conflict still arises in Orthodox and Greek-Catholic relations. The absolute majority of these are based on disputes over property and they do not on the whole have impact on inter-denominational relations in the area, although there are focal points of religious intolerance.

The Head of the Khrestvozdvyzhenk Cathedral of the UOC MP in Uzhhorod, Father Dmytry Sydor, came out publicly against the building of two Churches of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) in the city. He was especially disturbed by the fact that one of the planned Churches was located next to a Cathedral of the UOC MP which he labelled “aggressive actions by the Greek Catholics in relation to the Orthodox population”.

Perhaps the most glaring example of religious intolerance in Orthodox and Catholic relations was the public position taken by the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate and the UOC MP against the transfer of the central office of the UGCE to Kyiv in August 2005. The Moscow Patriarchate claimed that this was an unfriendly act in relation to Orthodox believers and an example of Catholic proselytizing on Orthodox territory which would lead to a worsening in Orthodox – Greek-Catholic relations. Some organizations linked to the Church and political forces close to them, like the Union of Orthodox Citizens, the Progressive Socialist Party and the political party “Brotherhood” held a number of actions against the transfer of the UGCC Centre to Kyiv where a central Cathedral of the Church was being built, including actions during a service to mark the move of the Supreme Archbishop Cardinal Lubomir Huzar.

Incidents of intolerance also continue to occur between the so-called traditional religions and new religious, Christian or other, movements. These are in the main spontaneous reactions to the appearance of a kind of competition. This is particularly difficult to cope with for Orthodox believers and clergy who have been accustomed to a single denomination situation since Soviet times.

  The Head of the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Brotherhood, Valentin Lukiyanik, claiming to be speaking on behalf of the Orthodox community, expressed his concern over the plans of the religious organization “Embassy of God” to organize an action with several thousand participants on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square], and called for the event to be banned. He commented on the fact that back on 20 May 2002 the State Committee on Religious Affairs had received information from the President’s Administration claiming that the Pastor of this religious organization, a Nigerian national, Sunday Adeladja was engaging in destructive activities on the territory of Ukraine. “We consider that such mass actions in the centre of the capital by an organization which is a cause of concern in society in connection with the manipulation by its leaders of Ukrainian citizens’ consciousness will contribute towards making both the religious and the social situation in the country more difficult”, the Head of the All-Ukrainian Orthodox Brotherhood stated in his letter.

In some cases, individual Jehovah’s Witnesses have, while carrying out their religious duties, been subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of unfriendly homeowners. Since such actions are a crime committed against an individual, each person must make the decision whether or not to seek legal defence. In one case, a priest of a local Church brutally beat up a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The assailant caused medium degree bodily injuries, and such acts are classified as criminal. However the appropriate bodies show the utmost reluctance to investigate such incidents. Following the above-mentioned attack they refused to initiate a criminal investigation within the context of Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (inciting religious enmity). A suit has been filed with the court over this refusal to prosecute.

On 16 November, speaking on behalf of the Ukrainian Inter-Church Council which is made up of different Christian, largely Protestant Churches, Bishop Volodymyr Harbar addressed an open letter to members of the clergy, pastors, the President and all Ukrainians.  In this letter he expressed concern at the decision of the Vinnytsa City Council to allocate land for the building of a pagan temple “To the Single God of the Universe – Dazhboh”. “It is clear to all of us that we who have declared ourselves to be a Christian people, have not managed to free ourselves of a whole array of pagan traditions. The presence of an idolatrous temple is not merely the building of some kind of structure, nor is it only a building of depravity - it is also a place of spiritual depravity. We call upon all Churches to use all the spiritual power vested in the Church, and in prayer to unite to prevent the curse which could fall upon us because of the spiritual depravity of the people”, the appeal reads.

In 2005 a Greek Catholic congregation was established in the city of Yevpatoriya (the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea). Since they did not have their own church, they rented premises, first in the only Ukrainian library in the city, then later in the library of the resort medical clinic. Father Bohdan Kostetsky recounts how over the space of six months, the congregation increased by several times.  During the Jordan festival, Father Bohdan, together with members of the congregation, was invited to sanctify the premises of School No. 13. The next day the Head, Olha Oleksiyivna Tymoshenko was summoned to the city council and warned that if she ever again invited a Uniate Priest to the school, she would be fired. Father Bohdan also noted with bitterness that all notices about the activities of the UGCC in the city were ripped down.

Jewish organizations consider that in 2005 there was an increase in the number of anti-Semitic speeches and manifestations of intolerance towards Jewish believers. Several cases were recorded of vandalism against Jewish places of worship (generally anti-Semitic slogans on walls). 

There was an incident on 14 August in Uman where every years Jewish pilgrims come from all over the world to honour the memory of Rabbi Nachman. State Deputy Petro Kuzmenko, together with court bailiffs, attempted to seize the biggest synagogue (designed for 5 thousand worshippers) not merely in the Cherkasy region and in Ukraine, but in all of Europe. In response, the President of the All-Ukrainian Jewish Congress and the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, Vadim Rabinovich, appealed to the Prosecutor General Sviatoslav Piskun “to not allow such a violation of the sensibilities of believers and to urgently place the situation in Uman under his personal control”.  The conflict had arisen over the fact that the Rabbi Nachman Foundation which owns the Synagogue owed the firm “Chance”, which belongs to Petro Kuzmenko, 2 million dollars.  The Jewish organizations also complained that Kuzmenko had over the years tried to speculate on the pilgrims who come every year to visit the grave of the great Rabbi.

On the evening of 28 August, a group of young skinheads in the centre of Kyiv brutally attacked and injured a Yeshiva (Jewish theological college) student of the Brodsky Synagogue, Mordechai Molozhenov.  The young man was repeatedly kicked and hit with broken glass bottles. Due to the particular attention given to this crime by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the suspected perpetrators were detained fairly swiftly. The incident aroused strong reactions from the Jewish community in Ukraine, and in the world. Vadim Rabinovich called the incident “an appalling, racist crime”. He believed that it was not an isolated incident, but was connected with what he said was the increase in fascist propaganda in the Ukrainian capital. “Hundreds of fascist newspapers and journalists openly espousing racist and ethnic enmity and inciting inter-ethnic dissent are freely sold.  As examples of such publications, Vadim Rabinovich mentioned the journal “Personnel”, the newspapers “Personnel – plus”, “Ukrainska gazeta-plus”, “Idealist” and others. Serious concern over the attack was also expressed by the Israeli Embassy. “This incident has shocked me to the core.  We must all make efforts to ensure that such attacks will not be repeated”, Viktor Yushchenko stressed when commenting on the brutal attack.  He stated that the Ukrainian authorities must uphold the principle of respect for people of all cultures, nationalities and religions.

Other examples of religious intolerance and incitement to religious enmity

In 2005 there were not a lot of publications detected in the print media which demonstrated religious intolerance. Most of those which appeared were articles with anti-Semitic content.

Experts from the Institute for Religious Freedom spoke of the danger of broadcasting television programs on Ukrainian territory or publishing material in the press which incite religious enmity and lead to public confrontation on religious grounds. Such videos and reports were shown on nationwide and regional television channels, for example: “Black square” on Television and Radio Company (TRC) “Kyiv”, the program “Top secret. Sects” on STB, the film “Attack on freedom” (made by the civic organization “The Union for the protection of the family and the individual”, Kyiv), the film “Religion, Politics, Extremism” (made by the Dnipropetrovsk Centre for helping the victims of destructive cults “Dialogue”), and others. However an adequate response from the state controlling bodies was not forthcoming, and it is not therefore possible to exclude the likelihood of films and television programs being produced in the future which promote religious intolerance and a negative attitude to people on the basis of their religion.

The publications which can be qualified as inciting religious enmity appear on the whole in the regional press (for example, “Ukrainska gazeta. Russky variant” [Ukrainian newspaper. Russian version] in Kyiv; the newspaper “Deloviye novosti” [“Business news”] in Kherson; the newspaper “Rovenkovskiye vesti” [“Rovenki news”] in the town of Rovenki, Luhansk region, the newspaper “Donetskiye novosti” [“Donetsk news”] in Donetsk, and others), or in publications from political parties, primarily those with pro-Russian and left-wing or extreme-right-wing views.  Among the latter we should mention the newspaper “Krymskaya Pravda” [“Crimean truth”] and some other pro-Russian publications from the Crimea, which regularly push anti-Muslim feeling.

The number of bigoted publications on the Internet has increased. A website which stands out for its extreme level of intolerance is that of the organization “Yedynoye Otechestvo” [“One Fatherland”] (, which, together with the Union of Orthodox Citizens of Ukraine, is headed by Viktor Kaurov. The site regularly publishes material which can be considered offensive to believers of many denominations, especially the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, and to fuel religious intolerance.

An important factor for inculcating religious tolerance should be school. However it is often specifically in schools that historical and everyday manifestations of intolerance towards representatives of other denominations are seen. For example, the Prosecutor’s office of the Kirovohrad region launched a criminal case against a teacher of the Nesvatkivska general education school for propagandizing anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.

The curriculum and program of courses for teachers’ professional development on the fundamentals of safety and survival[18]  envisages in the section entitled: “Security of the information realm. Modern information systems” that information be provided about religious sects.  This is despite the fact that the term is not set down in legislation, and therefore in this section a subjective interpretation of the concept is more often than not imposed which is frequently incompatible with the concept of freedom of religious and worship and of the equality of all religious organizations. School teachers then go on to impart this information to their students in secondary schools.

Incidents of vandalism

Vandalism is one of the most widespread examples of extreme expression of religious intolerance and bigotry in society.

The Armenian community in Lviv complains of constant acts of vandalism. According to the Head of the community, Father Tadeos Gevorgyan, near their church which is the Main Cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Ukraine, there are regularly acts of vandalism, with unidentified individuals smashing bottles and windows, breaking the fence. Father Tadeos does, however, mention that recently vandals have not been writing on the church walls as used to happen. The community cannot afford to pay for security and therefore turn to the authorities for protection, especially given that the Armenian Cathedral is one of the most important monuments of the historical and architectural heritage of Lviv.

Employees of a hospital in Chortkiv (Ternopil region) dug up an old Jewish cemetery on land adjoining the hospital in order to use the area as a garden. This was despite the fact that the cemetery was registered as a historical monument.  It is one of the oldest Jewish burial places in Chortkiv, dating back to the XVII Century.  According to Yakov  Baranov, the Head of the Chortkiv Jewish Community, among those  buried there is the founder of the Hassidic Movement in Chortkiv, Rabbi David Moshe Friedman, and therefore the cemetery is a place of Jewish pilgrimage.

The main office of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ukraine report more than 34 cases of vandalism against their property. These were generally connected with young people who flung various objects at local places of worship and caused damage. On some occasions the lads were acting under the effect of alcohol, however in other cases the actions were the result of religious intolerance.

During the night between 18 and 19 June, unidentified individuals smeared oil over the façade of the St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church on Decembrist Street in Mykolaiv. This was not the first case where Catholic holy places were desecrated in southern Ukraine, the Press Service of the Odessa – Simferopol Eparchy of the Roman-Catholic Church explained. During the night before the funeral of Pope John Paul II the St. Joseph Church had eggs thrown at it.  A similar act of vandalism was committed at that time in Izmail, in the Odessa region. “I am disturbed by the fact that is not the first time that we have seen aggression against the Catholic Church in Mykolaiv this year”, the Bishop of the Odessa – Simferopol Roman-Catholic Church, Bronislav Bernatsky.  “I am also surprised that the authorities of Mykolaiv virtually do not react to these acts of hooliganism directed against our believers.  The Bishop addressed a statement in this respect to the Head of the Mykolaiv  Regional State Administration, Oleksandr Sadykov.

At the “Soniachny” neighbourhood in the city of Ternopil, a black kitten was nailed to a tree and an icon desecrated.  The paper icon was nailed to a tree with a huge nail. Christ’s eyes were cut out, and the icon had a red five-pointed star in a circle painted over it, with three “6”s underneath, which would confirm the version that this was the work of Satanists.

Large anti-Semitic graffiti appeared in the middle of July on the two main “Small” and “Central Synagogues” in Dnipropetrovsk.

  In Kyiv the Centre of the Reform Judaism Community “Ha Tikvah” was desecrated. Near the entrance to the centre on 13 June 2005 anti-Semitic graffiti, a swastika and a Star of David hanging from a noose were discovered. Nearby there was also another piece of graffiti calling President Yushchenko an enemy of Ukraine.

  At night in Donetsk 27 windows of the Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate were smashed

In the morning of 19 November a temporary wooden chapel on the building site of the Cathedral of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Kyiv burned down. Members of the congregation say that there are grounds for believing it was an act of arson. A criminal investigation has been initiated.

The police is involved in investigating an act of vandalism at a Muslim cemetery in the village of Kalynivka in the Chornomorsk district, where several graves were desecrated. The local department of the Security Service (SBU) has become involved in the investigation. As the Head of the Chornomorsk regional Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars, Veli Ibrayimov, reported, the incident took place during the night between 30 and 31 August. Vandals brought down eight tombstones, totally destroying some of them. In addition, on the wall of a place of prayer on the territory of the cemetery during the same night an offensive message was written in stone with threats and foul abuse directed at the Crimean Tatars.  The Crimean Tatars themselves think that what happened at the cemetery was the act of underage offenders. “In my opinion this was carried out by children, but with something directing them”, Veli Ibrayimov says. – “One circumstance that inclines me to think this is the fact that the vandals did not touch the more substantial tombstones, and toppled only those which even children would be strong enough to bring down”. The Head of the regional Mejlis noted that the Chornomorsk district had until recently been considered one of the most peaceful in the Crimea as far as inter-ethnic conflict was concerned. “In general our area is quiet, and this is the first act of vandalism in our district. However, clearly those who don’t want things to be alright here can reach even the edge of the Crimea. It is possible that those vandals were directed by somebody from Simferopol”. He added: “We told officers from the law enforcement bodies that it they don’t find those responsible for what happened within 1 or 2 months, we will find them and punish them ourselves. However the top people in the police and the SBU have promised us that they won’t close the criminal case into this until the offenders have been arrested.”



According to Article 24 of the Ukrainian Constitution citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms and are equal before the law.  There shall be no privileges or restrictions based on … religious and other beliefs.  The prohibition on discrimination against religious organizations is specified in Article 5 of the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”

At the beginning of 2006 Ukraine ratified Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which establishes a total ban on any form of discrimination, including religious.

  It is in general difficult to monitor the cases of discrimination in Ukraine against individuals on religious grounds because these people often do not wish to complain about those responsible or are not aware of their rights given the ban on such discrimination.

  Discrimination against religious communities is fairly widespread. Examples of intolerance, incitement to religious enmity, as well as the procedure for allocating sites for places of worship clearly demonstrate differences in attitude to different religious organizations depending on their particular faith. Such discrimination is prohibited by legislation. However some normative acts effectively establish discrimination on religious grounds.

  One example of this is the issue of value added tax (VAT). Back on 12 September 1997 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine issued Resolution № 1010 approving a List of religious services and objects intended for religious purposes where payment of VAT was waived on any operations involving their provision or sale.  The UHHRU sent a formal request for information to the designers of this List, the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine, with regard to the incompleteness of the said List, given the fact that only religious services and objects intended for religious purposes belonging exclusively to Christian religious organizations had been taken into consideration.  All others were effectively outside the scope of the List.   The situation is made more complicated by the fact that the problem is not solely to do with VAT. According to Article 7.11.7 of the Law of Ukraine “On taxation of the profits of businesses” non-profit-making religious organizations have the right to receive income from religious activities. Since the law provides no definition, the State Tax Inspectorate applies the concept “religious services” as per the above-mentioned List which does not, as we have mentioned, include a significant number of religious services of non-Christian organizations.

Legislation thus establishes discriminatory norms regarding taxation of religious organizations of non-Christian faiths.

  In response to UHHRU’s letter the Ministry of Finance stated that the said List had been passed as the result of “a review of proposals from interested religious organizations” and an expert opinion on religion carried out by specialists on religious studies, and by whom “the procedure was studied for the granting by religious organizations of religious services and the use of objects intended for religious purposes, their possible influence of the health and safety of citizens, etc”.The Ministry of Finance also stated that the given List could be supplemented through carrying out an expert opinion into the religious and worshipping activities of the relevant religious organizations.



The clearest group of support from political forces has formed around the UOC MP.  This includes first of all the Communist Party of Ukraine (the oldest political partner of the UOC MP), the Party of the Regions, the Socialist Party of Ukraine, the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (which has even formed a bloc with the organization close to the Church the Union of Orthodox Citizens of Ukraine) and others. On the website of the Press Service of the UOC MP, led by V. Anisimov – – from time to time information appears about the “religious” activity of parties (primarily defending canonical Orthodoxy) which is of an overtly advertising nature.

From autumn 2005 the involvement increased of church structures of the UOC MP in the election campaign.  Moreover a political battle began between some organizations linked to the Church since they worked with different parties.  A kind of competition emerged between the Union of Orthodox Citizens which supported the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Natalya Vitrenko with its leader, V. Kaurov, in tenth place on the candidate list for that arty, and the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, headed by V. Lukiyanik who was in 28th place on the candidate list of the Communist Party, and therefore tried to show that the UOC MP supported that party.

Some religious figures of the UOC MP were also on the candidate lists of parties and blocs. The Metropolitan of Odessa and Izmail’sk Agafangel (Savvin) was at the top of the candidate list for the Odessa Regional Council of the Party of the Regions (for whose leader, V. Yanukovych, he had campaigned very actively during the Presidential elections of 2004). In that list, the fifth place was held by the Mother Superior of one of the Orthodox monasteries of the UOC MP.  Priest Dmitry Sydor held first place in the candidate list of Natalya Vitrenko’s Bloc for the Transcarpathian Regional Council.  He was also registered as candidate for the mayoral elections in Uzhhorod. However the UOC MP do not see participation in the elections for local councils as political activity.  For example, in an interview on TV Channel 5, Father Petro Zuyev from the UOC MP stated: “I would like to draw your attention to the fact that there is a candidate list for the Verkhovna Rada, and one for local authorities.  As regards the Verkhovna Rada, this is undoubtedly political activity. However, as far as the local councils are concerned, the clergy have a lot of problems at the local level, and one year of democracy in our country has not changed a lot.  Problems have remained.  And clearly the members of the clergy who are standing for office explain their actions as making it easier to resolve specific issues.” One could hear similar views from members of other denominations, for example, from the UOC KP where members of the clergy also announced their participation in the elections for local councils. For example, Archbishop Khmelnytsky Antoniy (Makhota) was in 5th place on the candidate list of the Bloc of Kostenko and Plyushch for the Khmelnytsky Regional Council, while the local clergy from this same Church did not spurn participation in the elections for district or other local councils.

The Committee of Voters of Ukraine reported that the Metropolitan of the UOC MP had during the special service on 6 January in the Spaso-Preobrazhensk Cathedral campaigned for the mayor candidate from the electoral bloc “Nasha Ukraina” [“Our Ukraine”]. At the same time, he himself was a candidate for the regional council from the Party of the Regions.

Overall in the candidate lists of parties and blocs to the Verkhovna Rada, according to information from the Central Election Committee, as of the end of January 2006, there were 10 religious figures, mainly from New Pentecostal congregations.

On the other hand, the Council of the Ukrainian Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, whose participants were heads of departments of the Union, conferences and missions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, agreed an address to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ukraine with regard to participation in the elections. In it they stress that the position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is “non-interference in political processes and the separation of the Church and state”.  The document also states that the members of the Church may take part in the elections. Each person has the right to “a rational choice on political issues and to support any political party”.

The Church does not condemn those Adventists who have been invited to work in the government or those who stand as candidates in the elections since, as the address states: “the sense of Christian responsibility may prompt a person to take part in different civic organizations with virtuous social, educational or human rights aims”.

Religious figures from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church at the church level are categorically prohibited from taking part in the elections for any level of council.

  On the other hand, the politicized stand of some Church figures sometimes elicits an openly negatively reactions from believers. For example, complaints have been received by the State Department for Religious Affairs from believers of the Kamyanets-Podilska Eparchy of the UOC MP over the actions of the local Bishop Feodor (Hayun) connected with the latter’s support for the Party of the Regions, headed by Viktor Yanukovych.  There were also cases of splits emerging in some Orthodox parishes as a result of the disagreement of some of the believers with political campaigning in their Churches, and of their changing to another denomination. Mostly such incidents result in a fierce battle between denominations over the right to the church and the interference of the authorities or political forces (the Rivne, Ternopil and Chernivtsi regions).

The Russian True Orthodox Church condemned the use of the Church in political pre-election technology. In particular, it considers the “Orthodox PR” of the party “Soyuz” [“Union”] and its leaders to be immoral and also expresses doubts about the authenticity of the relics of Saint Seraphim Sarovsky which the  party “Soyuz”  are taking around cities of Ukraine.

The electoral commission of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea considered for a long time before registering for the elections for the Verkhovna Rada of the Crimea the bloc “For Yanukovych” which was creating as a regional department of the Party of the Regions and the party “Rus Bloc” The problem was that one of the points of the electoral program spoke of its being supported by the canonical UOC MP. Members of the Commission believed that the given provisions fuel religious enmity and approached competent bodies for an opinion. It was only after this that the bloc was registered.



In summarizing the above, one should note that at the present time a large number of problem areas remain regarding the activities of religious organizations which need legislative resolution. In our view these problems could be resolved more quickly by involving representatives of religious organizations and specialists in drawing up government draft laws and normative acts on issues connected with freedom of religion and worship. There has up till now been virtually no such involvement. This form of cooperation will make it possible to resolve issues which arise in practice for religious organizations  and to avoid legal clashes and legislative amendments which do not improve the existing situation.

The main violations of religious freedom identified include:

–  failings of current legislation regulating freedom of religion and worship in Ukraine (the orientation of legislation on the rights of groups, and not on the rights of the individual; complicated registration of religious organizations; a permission-based system for the holding by religious organizations of public events; the lack of clear norms for returning religious property to religious organizations; the absence of concessions for publicly beneficial activities of religious organizations, etc);

–  repeated cases involving direct or indirect interference by representatives of the authorities in inter-denominational conflict on the side of one of the parties; preferential treatment of one denomination at the expense of others (the Lviv, Ternopil, Rivne and Chernivtsi regions);

–  incidents of intolerance manifested towards representatives of other denominations; the placing of obstructions in the way of carrying out religious activities (most often conflict between Orthodox Churches, arguments between Orthodox and Catholic Churches, confrontation between “traditional – non-traditional” religions); cases of anti-Semitism and vandalism;  the activity of organizations and individuals which fuel religious intolerance and enmity;

–  procrastination or refusal to allocate religious communities sites for their buildings (complaints from various regions);

–  stalling the process or refusing to hand over former places of worship or other premises confiscated from religious communities under the Soviet regime; the unauthorized seizure of churches by other communities (for example, property conflicts primarily in western regions, problems with the return of Roman Catholic churches and other premises in Odessa, Sevastopol, Kyiv, Zhytomyr and others);

–  the use of religious organizations or religious factors for political purposes, in particular during the elections (Odessa, Kyiv, Transcarpathia, the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea).

A number of positive moves were seen with regard to observance of religious freedom:

-   there was a considerable increase in the activity of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations  (a number of meetings were held, including with the President, and several statements were made);

-  in the majority of regional administrations inter-denominational councils have been created which help in resolving current issues, including those involving property, in the area of state-denominational relations;

-  religious organizations have themselves to some extent become more active in upholding their rights;

–  there have been certain improvements in the carrying out by religious organizations of their activities in the army.


1.  Ukrainian legislation should be brought into conformity with the demands of Articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the light of the court case law of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular, as regards ensuring the neutrality of the State, the possibility for a religious community to receive legal entity status and to freely practice their religion.. For this it would be desirable to apply the “Guidelines for Review of Legislation Pertaining to Religion or Belief” prepared by the OSCE / ODIHR and the Venice Commission in 2004[19]

2.   In drawing up a new version of the law on religious organizations the focus should be moved away from checking out organizations at registration stage to monitoring their activity: to accordingly shorten and simplify the registration of religious organizations, making the procedure at least analogous with the registration of civic associations.

3.  Discrimination must be eliminated when registering the charters of religious communities and the grounds clearly defined for refusing to register or for cancelling the registration of the charters of religious communities.

4.  The state authorities should not interfere in internal church matters, in particular, those concerning the creation of a single Local Orthodox Church., nor should they impose any particular single organizational structure, efend one of the sides in internal Church conflicts, etc.

5.  Effective mechanisms are needed for avoiding discrimination on religious grounds, particularly in the penal system, the social sphere and in the area of labour relations. It is also vital to make adjustments to legislation on taxation of religious organizations in order to remove discrimination against non-Christian organizations.

6.  Law enforcement agencies must react appropriately to cases of incitement to religious hostility, especially from dominant religious organizations, and parties fighting organizations which they consider to be sects.

7.  In order to eliminate discriminatory administrative practice and conflict between churches, to pass clear legal norms with regard to the grounds, procedure and time periods for returning church property. It would also be expedient to draw up a detailed plan for returning religious property with these procedures and the time taken for each object defined. Where it is impossible to return such property, provision of some compensation should be stipulated, in particular, for the construction of new buildings of worship.

8.  Local authorities should review legislative acts they have passed which establish discriminatory provisions, and also additional limitations, not foreseen by the law, on freedom of religion when holding peaceful gatherings, renting premises, allocating land and returning religious buildings. General principles should also be clearly outlined for the allocation of sites for building places of worship.



[1]  “The liquidation of the State Committee on Religious Affairs and the creation on its base of a State Department on Religious Affairs is a clear indication of the attention the leaders of the country are paying to the further harmonizing of state – religious relations”  Interview with the Director of the State Department on Religious Affairs, Ihor Bondarchuk, on 18 November 2005. Available on the RISU website:

[2]  “Human Rights in Ukraine – 2004” Human rights organizations report.  Kharkiv: Folio, 2005.  pp. 103 – 122. Available in both Ukrainian and English at:

[3]  In March 2006 the period of alternative service was decreased (to 18 months), and in May 2006 the Ministry of Justice announced that they were submitting a draft law introducing alternative service on moral grounds and a number of other changes.  (translator’s note)

[4]  Available in Ukrainian on the “Maidan” website:

[5]  This opinion is endorsed by other experts also. See, for example, H. Druzenko: “The event of 2005 in state-religious relations: a legal analysis //;8664/

[6]  Available in Ukrainian at:

[7]  cf. the official site of the “Party of the Regions”

[8]  M. Vasin, legal specialist for the Institute for Religious Freedom, Master of Law. An Analysis of legislative initiatives pertaining to freedom of conscience and of the activities of religious organizations during 2005 //;8920.

[9]  The Ministry of Ukraine on Nationalities, Immigration and Religion. The Department on religious organizations. Recommendations on the practical application of the Law of Ukraine on freedom of conscience and religious organizations (explanations for the application of each article). Kyiv, 1995 (in Ukrainian)

[10]  Specialists from the Institute of Religious Freedom. Review of violations of the right to freedom of conscience and religion, and of cases of interference in the activities of religious organizations in Ukraine in 2005 //;9251/

[11]  More detail on problems with registration of religious organizations can be found in: “Analysis of legislative initiatives in freedom of worship and the activity of religious organizations in 2005” by M. Vasin (in English) at:


[12]  Both here, and in the reference to the same Church earlier, any reader wishing to read further into the cases should be warned that there seem to have been two Churches – the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Rusyn Orthodox Church Abroad. They would appear to have united on or shortly after 10 January 2005. (translator’s note)

[13]  Order No. 437 of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine from 26 July 2005

[14]  Interview with Petro Hanulych, General Secretary of the Ukrainian Association for Religious Freedom //;6615/

[15]  More detail can be found in issue No. 8 (68) 2005 of “National Security and Defence” dedicated to the debate on religious education and upbringing in Ukraine //

[16]  Letter No. 1/9-436 of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine from 18.08.2005

[17]  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate. The Donbas (Donetsk region) remains a region of religious intolerance. (in Ukrainian) //;6013/

[18]  Letter No. 1/9-315 of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine from 25 July 2000

[19] Freedom of Religious and Worship in Ukraine within the context of compliance with European standards  (in Ukrainian) / Edited by Volodymyr Yavorsky / Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and the International Civic Organization the Centre for Legal and Political Studies “SIM”.  Kharkiv: Folio, 2005. Available on the UHHRU website at:

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