war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.




1.   General overview

The situation in this field did not change significantly, although certain negative tendencies, i.e. an increase in state regulation and restrictions in religious freedom can be traced. On the one hand, there is relative freedom. On the other hand, old problems, related partially to the old legislation[2], have not been resolved, while the new ones came into being with the passing of new law.

Citizens of all religious denominations enjoy sufficient freedom in exercising their rights. The state does not manifest any religious preferences; nor does it restrict any confessions.

Ukraine looks much better in comparison with other post-soviet state, as it ensures the basic level of religious freedom. Despite the fact that the old law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations is obsolete and somewhat rigid, its faults are to a large extent compensated by predominantly liberal administrative practices of the power bodies. Nevertheless, the lack of precise legal guarantees of religious freedom adds to instability and unpredictability of the situation, dependent on the state policy.   

And the state policy in this respect remains inconsistent and unforeseeable. In 2012 certain preferences of the central power with regards to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) were registered. They were manifested in the authorities’ stand concerning the lease of premises, allotment of budget funds for the renovations of the religious   buildings used by this Church and other actions supporting this Church.

E.g. for a long time the state has been ignoring unauthorized construction of the so-called Tithe Monastery at the site of the former Tithe Church, carried out by UOC MP. Moreover, the official power publicly advocates the interests of UOC MP in this matter[3]. Thus, on April  9, 2012 the Ministry of Culture inaugurated the Tithe Church museum, and  several months later P.Doroshenko (aka deacon Yaroslav, the minister of the UOC MP “Tithe monastery of the Saintly Virgin Nativity”, functioning illegally in the territory of the National Museum of History of Ukraine) was appointed its director. This action provoked an understandable protest on behalf of the scholars.[4]

There are other preferences in the authorities’ dealings with the dominant religion of the country. In particular, it concerns the allotment of lands for the construction of religious centers, restitution of the churches, confiscated by the soviet power etc. On the other hand, the power can hinder the development of other religions for the benefit of the dominant one. It is noteworthy, though, that predominance of different religious organizations varies from one region to another.  

After the liquidation of the Department for the matters of religion, its functions were delegated to a special division of the Ministry of Culture. Meanwhile, a certain intermission in public meetings of the clergy and the authorities was observed. In 2011 the dialogue between the church and the power started, to be continued in 2012. These relations, however, were seriously complicated after the law was amended in late 2012 without any consideration of public opinion.

The state power should provide for equal opportunities for all the Ukrainian citizens irrespective of their religious affiliation, as was stressed by the President of Ukraine Yanukovich during his meeting with high clergy on March 21, 2012. The all-Ukrainian Church and religious organizations’ Council, in its turn, prepared an appeal, drawing President’s attention to the current social challenges[5]. The document contained specific proposals as to the legislative changes and cooperation between the religious organizations and the state.  

On June 22, 2012 , in compliance with the order of the Ministry of Culture № 668 of June 22,  2012 the Expert Council on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations’activity started its operation under the  Ministry of Culture. The Council is a consultative and advisory body, set up with the goal of providing professional recommendations, specialized consultations and studying crucial issues related to the implementation of state policy with respect to religion. Under its Bylaws, the main tasks of the newly formed Expert Council include: in-depth monitoring, analysis and evaluation of the processes taking place in the religious area, both in Ukraine and in the other countries; offering professional consultations and studying crucial issues related to the implementation of state policy with respect to religion, ensuring freedom of conscience and religion, activities of the religious organizations and other tasks, defined in the Bylaws.[6]

In July 2012 an attempt to revive the operation of the governmental Commission for ensuring the rights of the religious organizations was made.   On July 25 the changes concerning Commission’s operation and membership were introduced into the Cabinet of Ministers’ Resolution.[7] Following the President’s meetings with the all-Ukrainian Church and religious organizations’ Council in March 2012 and in April 2011, respective Presidential orders were issued twice. However, under the government of the new convocation – between 2010 and now – the Commission failed to convene.  The meetings were postponed indefinitely, till one meeting actually occurred on October 22. No significant results were achieved.[8]

As far back as July 21, 2011 the all-Ukrainian Church and religious organizations’ Council approached the President with the request to postpone the development of new version of the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations. The appeal read: “Without consensus on the proposed legislative amendments the development of new version of the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations should be postponed”. Generally it can be explained by permanent and foreseeable administrative practice of applying this law and by the fear that any changes can lead to the restriction of religious freedoms, as it happens in many post-soviet countries. This stand was supported by the Ministry of Culture. 

However, this attitude of the clergy and official power does not take into account the international commitments of Ukraine in the implementation of the European Court on Human Rights’ Decision in the case “St.Michaels parish vs. Ukraine”. The case concerned substantial faults of the law on religious organizations regarding the grounds for refusal to register religious organization, lack of accurate definitions of “religious community” “religious organization” and other crucial issues.   It is also noteworthy that the rulings concerning individual measures were not complied with either. As of today the changes to the religious organization bylaws remain unregistered, and the church built by the parishioners is managed by the people who seized the premises in the year 2000  (p. 27 of the European Court on Human Rights’ Decision). Makarchykov and his parishioners have no access to the building. [9] We believe that the state postpones the registration of the new bylaws on purpose, as it would mean the restitution of the church to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Kyiv patriarchate.

On February 9, 2012  a meeting of working group on draft laws concerning freedom of conscience presided by first Deputy Minister Yu.Bohutsky was held in the Ministry of Culture.  The participants discussed the order of religious organizations’ operation, entrance, temporary stay, employment and residence of the foreign priests in Ukraine, as well as the improvements in the operation of the Commission for ensuring and exercising the rights of the religious organizations.  The meeting of the working group also reviewed the fulfillment of the Decree of the President of Ukraine № 24/2011 of January 12, 2011 “On Plan of measures for the implementation of Ukraine’s commitments and obligations under its membership in the Council of Europe” , specifically the designing of the draft law “On restitution  of the religious premises to the religious organizations” with the participation of the state officials, members of all-Ukrainian Church and religious organizations’ Council, specialists and experts.[10]

However, on October 16, 2012 the parliament unexpectedly adopted contradictory changes to the law on religious organizations[11]. Numerous non-governmental organizations, human rights activists and religious organizations opposed this law[12]. Nevertheless, on November 21 the President signed the law anyway and on December 12, 2012 it came in force. Meanwhile, on December, 7 the President instructed the Ministry of Justice to devise the draft law on amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” without delay.[13]

The new version of Article 13 of the Law reads that “a religious organization becomes legal entity since the date of its state registration”. In fact this law enforces state registration of a religious organization in two stages: first, it should register its bylaws, and then independently undergo the procedure of registration in compliance with the Law “On state registration of legal entities and physical entities – entrepreneurs” in the State Registration Service of Ukraine. This complex registration procedure is unjustified and unnecessarily complicated. In practice the registration process takes up to a year. It is noteworthy, that if the Registration Service reveals any shortcomings in the bylaws at the second stage, the whole registration procedure shall be started anew. This practice has been in place for a long time; currently only legal discrepancies were removed, and not to the benefit of the religious organizations. The registration procedure seems to be contrary to Article 9 of the European Convention on Protection of Human Rights.

The new reading of Article 29 of the Law grants authority to exercise state control over the conformity with the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations to a number of power bodies: 

·        The Ministry of Culture, as specially authorized body of executive power on religious matters;  

·        All the other ministries and governmental agencies, services and inspectorates;  

·        Prosecutor’s offices;

·        Local state administrations (oblast’ and rayon);

·        Local councils (of oblast’, city, village and settlements level).

At the same time the Law fails to provide clear definitions regarding forms and types of state control of these matters. It says only that control should be exercised within the terms of reference of the authorized bodies. This language places control functions beyond the scope of the laws in force, referring to sublegal acts, which specify the competences of executive power bodies in detail. The law does not provide a clear answer to the questions concerning grounds, boundaries and ways of power intervention into religious organizations’ operation. It is contrary to the international standards, and may have long-term negative impact.

Amendments to Article 30 of the Law delegated the authority of granting approvals for preaching or other canonical activity, religious services conducted by foreign priests, preachers, mentors, other members of foreign religious organizations, to the Ministry of Culture.  It creates further contradictions in the acts regulating operation of foreign priests, teachers and students of religious schools, volunteers etc.

Besides the legislative changes retain the licensing order for peaceful gatherings of believers and religious organizations (Article 21.5 of the Law), which directly contradicts Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine. We want to remind here that local self-governance bodies use this provision systematically forbidding the believers to exercise their constitutional right. 

Extremely active involvement of churches and religious organizations in parliamentary elections is another negative phenomenon of 2012.  Before that involvement used to be less active. Under experts’ assessment, it happened in all the regions of Ukraine, with churches of all denominations involved. The ways of clerical participation have become more diverse too: from giving blessings to various projects funded by the candidates to granting them religious awards, to open campaigning in the temples and at the rallies. In many cases it was not just a token participation of high clergy or abuse of sacred topics, but plain campaign held by priests of different denominations for certain candidates ( predominantly for so-called “self-nominated “ones). And it was happening with complete disregard of numerous appeals of the Heads of Churches demanding the banning of these campaigns.[14]

The special Report of the US State Department assessed the freedom of religion [in Ukraine] rather positively[15]. The Report reads that religious freedom is well protected at the legislative level while the government pays due attention to it. “The government does not show any tendencies towards improvement or deterioration of situation with respect to the protection of right to religious freedom” – says the Report. However, there is a further remark to the effect that in the disputes the local level authorities sometimes take sides with specific religious communities. The problem of property restitution still exists, although it is eventually being resolved by turning communal property to the religious organizations’ ownership.[16]

The issues of religion-based discrimination still remain crucial, but the majority would accept this situation as far as it concerns public life only. Especially, if one takes into account the complete absence of legal tools of fighting the discrimination.

Religious network in Ukraine[17] as of January 1, 2012 is represented by 55 confessions with 36 500 religious organizations (35 861religious organizations last year), including   85 centers and 290 departments), 35 013 religious communities (with 30 880clergymen in charge), 471 monasteries (with 6 769 monks), 360 missions, 80 fraternities, 201 religious schools (with 1 975 students), 12 899 Sunday schools. More and more printed materials are published by the churches’ media; currently they amount to 390 titles.

Confessional division of the religious organizations shows that Orthodox religion is predominant in Ukraine - 18279 parishes (52.2 % of total number of religious centers in the country) as opposed to 17071 (51.6 %) as of January 1, 2009. At the same time, their share in the total number shows a tendency to decrease, while the increase in the number of religious communities is lesser than all-Ukrainian indicator.  The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the most numerous among the Orthodox churches; its network covers 67.5 % of the Orthodox communities in the country.

As of January 1, 2012  the religious organizations use  23 495 temples and prayer houses. In response to the parishioners’ request 234 churches and prayer houses were transferred to the religious organizations for ownership and use in 2011. 300 houses of worship were built in 2011 with the help of local executive power bodies, local self-governments and off-budget funds. Over this period of time the major religious organizations have built respectively: UOC – 138 churches, UGCC – 72, UOC KP – 39, all-Ukrainian Council of Evangelical Baptists’ Churches – 5, the Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians in Ukraine – 6, UAOC – 8 houses of worship.   Besides, religious organizations use 6791 rented premises and 971 former churches. Religious organizations satisfy their needs for houses of worship by 66.1 %., including Trans-Carpathian (Hungarian) reformist church   – 93%, UOC – 84.6%, RCC -  90.4%, UGCC– 76.9%, Church of the Seventh Day Adventists – 64.3%, all-Ukrainian Council of Evangelical Baptists’ Churches – 68.5%, the Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians in Ukraine – 64.7%, UOC KP– 64.5%, UAOC – 59.7%, Jewish organizations – 48.2%, Moslems –  26.7 %. Religious communities received 338 places of worship for common use.

2.   Freedom to practice religion or faith

2.1. Formation and operation of the religious organizations

The old issue of religious organizations’ registration still remains unsolved. On the average the registration of the organizations’ bylaws takes from 9 to 18 months. The procedure violates the European standards in many aspects; it is very bureaucratic and not clearly defined. Nevertheless, the religious organizations accept it, because after the registration there is practically no control over their operation as long as it does not involve foreign nationals.  

In our earlier reports we deliberated a lot on the legislative provisions with respect to the registration of religious organizations. No significant changes occurred in 2012, so our earlier assessment of the situation still applies. The only difference is the double registration enforced in December 2012.

The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine approved the Standard for administrative services, i.e. the registration of the religious organizations’ bylaws (statute) and amendments to them.  Respective Order № 366 of April 18, 2012 was registered in the Ministry of Justice on August 22.[18]

The scientologists’ communities for a long time were refused registration without any justification. They function unregistered since 2002. In 2009-2011 these communities appealed to the court seeking the cancellation of refusals. Their appeal was satisfied, but on June 25, 2011 Kyiv Municipal State Administration once again refused to register the bylaws of the “Kyiv Church of Scientology” in Dniprovsky district. The community appealed this refusal. On February 22, 2012 the Circuit Administrative Court of the City of Kyiv[19] classified the refusal to register the bylaws as illegal and ordered another review of the documents submitted for registration. The Court decision read “First of all, neither the appealed State Administration instruction, nor aforementioned conclusion of the State Committee of Ukraine on nationalities and religions №7/4-13-85 of July 27, 2011,  nor any  other case-related materials  provide any clarification as to what bylaws provisions of the “Kyiv Church of Scientology” are contrary to the Law of Ukraine. At the court hearing the respondents’ representatives also failed to quote such [bylaws] provisions. Therefore, the respondents’ claim that the provisions of the bylaws of “Kyiv Church of Scientology” in Dniprovsky district, submitted for registration, are contrary to the Law of Ukraine have no merit for the court”. On September 27, 2012 this decision was supported by Kyiv Appellate Administrative Court[20]. The Highest Administrative Court of Ukraine instigated the cassation proceedings on October 19, 2012.

On June 23, 2012 Ternopyl Circuit Administrative Court recognized the actions of Ternopyl oblast’State Administration, i.e. its failure to respond to the  bylaws’ registration request submitted by  a religious organization “Christian religious community”Ternopyl Church of Jesus Christ” as illegal and ordered the reconsideration of the documents for the further decision compliant with law in force.[21]

Granting religious organization the status of non-profit organization is an important part of registration, as it exempts it from income taxes, in particular, on voluntary donations – the main source of subsistence for almost all religious organizations. Despite provisions of Article  18 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” stipulating that “monetary and property donations, as well as other incomes of the religious organizations are not subject to taxation”, in fact the religious organizations cannot enjoy this benefit without tax service’s decision on including it into the Registry of non-profit institutions and organizations.  

Having acquired the status of legal entity by going through double registration procedure, the religious organization has to submit its bylaws to the State Tax Service of Ukraine to be registered as non-profit organization and entered into the Registry of non-profit institutions and organizations under the order established by the Order of the State Tax Inspection of Ukraine № 37 “On Approving the Provisions on the Registry of non-profit institutions and organizations” of January 24, 2011.

The State Tax Service  often refuses to grant the status of non-profit to a religious organization  and include it into the Registry of non-profit institutions and organizations  on formal and unjustified pretexts.

In practice religious organizations end up in the situation when taxation bodies request that they introduce changes into their statutory documents (thus pushing them towards double registration) without which, according to them, the non-profit status cannot be granted.  To give just one example, the taxation bodies contest the notion of “dissemination of religious literature” and “promotion of religious values and books through advertising” etc.

2.2. Organization and conducting of religious peaceful gatherings

The Law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, in violation of Article 39 of the Constitution, establishes the licensing order for religious peaceful gatherings. In fact public religious peaceful gatherings face even more obstacles, based on discrimination, intolerance or arbitrary interpretation of the law.   

Over the year 2012 the draft law on freedom of peaceful gatherings was prepared for the second reading in parliament. Its authors, however, stated that this law cannot be applied to religious organizations. The transitory provisions, however, envisage changes to the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations aimed at abolishing the licensing order for peaceful gatherings of religious organizations and their holding under general order.   If adopted these amendments would signify a serious progress in this matter.

On August 1, 2012 the court of Dzerzhinsky district in Kharkiv found four individuals guilty of administrative infringement under Article 185-1 of the Code of administrative infringements (breach of the peaceful gatherings’ order)[22]. In the course of court hearing they refused to plead guilty, clarifying that on July 20, 2012 they were just playing Hindu musical instruments and praising God at “Sarzhyn Yar” site. They also stated that they had submitted notification, but militia officials had approached them, informed them that they had no right to do that and had written a protocol. The court ruled that the actions of the individuals “ violated Article 185-1, part.1 of the Code of administrative infringements, as the case materials show that although the notification on religious meeting with incantations of holy names has been submitted by the organizers on  16.07.2012, the permit for the meeting was not granted ten days before the event, as stipulated by the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations; therefore, the judge qualifies the actions of the culprits as violations under 185-1, part 1 of the Code of administrative infringements.  The court, however, only issued an oral warning and closed the case. As far as we know, this decision was not appealed in court.  

On May 30, 2012 the Church of Grace under the all-Ukrainian Council of Evangelical Baptists was forbidden from holding educational/recreation event for children “The Happy Playground” by the Sumy executive committee. The organizers tried to hold the event without permit, with the resulting conflict between the Baptists, on the one side, and the priests, the activists of UOC (MP) and bureaucrats – on the other.  The Baptists stressed that under Article 23 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” they have the right to conduct cultural and educational activities without any permits. Their opponents claim that they had violated the prohibition issued by the executive committee, and the volunteers’ actions can be only qualified as children’s recruitment to a religious organization.[23]

On July 19, 2012 the court of Zarichny district (city of Sumy) passed a ruling on the claim filed by a religious community of the Jehovah’s witnesses “Sumy-South” against the executive committee of Sumy city council. This ruling canceled the executive committee decision to ban public religious services on July 20, 21, 22, 2012 at the “Yuvileyny” stadium (city of Sumy, Gagarin str.9). Referring to the practice of the European Court on Human Rights, the court in its ruling stated that the executive committee in its decision provided no grounds justifying the decision.[24]

2.3. Rights of foreign nationals and stateless persons

The legislation keeps restricting the freedom of religion for the foreign nationals and stateless persons. The restrictions imply the impossibility to set up religious organizations and preach or conduct other religious activities. These restrictions apply even to persons permanently residing in Ukraine. The foreign nationals are allowed to preach exclusively on official invitation from a registered religious organization (although the registration is not compulsory) and permit from the official bodies of power in charge of religious matters. Lack of permit entails administrative liability for the foreign nationals (i.e. fines), and warning with possible subsequent coercive disbanding - for the religious organizations.

We believe that the requirement of official permit for the foreign national is a redundant discriminatory measure. In order to eliminate potential public threat it would be enough for a foreign national to have an official invitation from a registered religious organization. In the process of registration the authorized bodies can verify the religious doctrine, and later, exercise control over the religious organization’s operation.  Hence, a foreigner coming to proselytize the same religion does not pose a direct threat to the public interests, and the obstacles are unjustified in a democratic society.  

However, the situation with seeking approval for religious activity has only been deteriorating, especially over the last two years.

The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine introduced an unofficial practice of 30-days’ term for the consideration of the religious organizations’ petitions requesting the permits for the foreign clergy to practice their religion in Ukraine.

Such a long term for acquiring permit for religious activity violates the right to freedom of religion and complicates international ties and relations between the religious organizations, guaranteed by Article 24 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”. 

The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine also introduced the practice of two-stage approval of the religious operation for foreign nationals staying in Ukraine for prolonged periods of time. For justification, the officials refer to the provisions of Article 4.6 and Article 5.6 of the Law “On legal status of the foreign nationals and stateless persons”. In actual life, it happens as follows:  

1) first, the Ministry of Culture officials request that the inviting organization submits  a document on “issuance of  typeDvisa(valid for 45 days and needed exclusively to apply for temporary stay in Ukraine) with the copy of the foreigner’s passport;

2) next, after the foreigner’s arrival to Ukraine, the officials of the Ministry of Culture request that a religious organization submits another petition seeking the document certifying foreigner’s temporary stay in Ukraine  with the copy of the foreigner’s passport with“D”visa and stamp of arrival in it.   

It is noteworthy that two-stage procedure for approving religious activity of foreigners in Ukraine is not directly required by the Law “On legal status of the foreign nationals and stateless persons”. It was introduced by the Ministry of Culture as the body in charge of religious matters.  

So, the regulation of the religious activity of foreigners and stateless persons in Ukraine, stipulated by Article 24.4 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” was arbitrarily transformed by the Ministry of Culture into highly bureaucratized complicated procedure, which testifies to the deterioration of administrative practice in this area, leading to the restrictions of rights of the foreign nationals and stateless persons to practice religion in Ukraine.  It also caused complications in the relations between Ukrainian religious organizations and their foreign counterparts. Oddly enough, it is the Ministry’s of Culture responsibility to provide support to the religious organizations in the international religious movements and business contacts under Article 30 of the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” and the Ministry of Culture Regulations.   

Paragraph 10 of the procedure for registration, issuance and delivery of the certificate on temporary stay, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers’ of Ukraine Resolution № 251, of March 28,    2012, establishes the term of validity for one year only. It means that foreigners, including the clergy, have to apply for the renewal of their permit on annual basis.  

This innovation narrows the scope of rights for the foreigners who earlier could obtain a certificate for temporary stay valid for up to three years, under the Cabinet of Ministers’ of Ukraine Resolution№ 811 of August 5,  2009.

Due to this policy the number of foreign clergymen invited by the religious organizations decreased dramatically. In У 2011 Ukraine was visited by 6 176 of foreign nationals (in 2010 –by 6 930). The State Committee on nationalities and religions, and, eventually, the Ministry of Culture issued permits for 2272  for the foreign nationals  (in 2010 the official body in charge of religious matters issued permits for religious and other canonical activities to  2675foreigners). The structural subdivisions of the state administration in charge of religious matters certified invitations for 3904 clergymen (in 2010 – for 4255). Among the visitors there were 2263 (2249) American citizens, 1181 (1385) citizens of Israel; 784 (925) Polish citizens, 276 (358) Asian nationals, 191 (269) Africans; 191 (197) –German citizens;   172 (136) Turkish citizens, and 578 (825) other countries’ nationals.[25]

3.  The state and religious organizations: principles of non-equalization and neutrality

Adherence to these principles is one of the crucial issues in the administrative practice of power bodies, which is often based on the support of the religion, predominant in the area, and discrimination of religious minorities. First of all, it is due to the fact that the power bodies struggling for their electorate traditionally manifest their support of the predominant religions. Apparently this patronage implies indirectly that the organizations of predominant religions have mores rights.

This phenomenon is vividly manifested in property matters, and, in particular, allotment of land plots for the construction of churches or restitution of the church property confiscated by the soviet power. In addressing these issues the authorities’ preferences are implemented in practice. Positive decisions are made, with insignificant exceptions, for the benefit of the organizations representing predominant religions. It is noteworthy that religious organizations most widely spread in a given territory (oblast’) are considered predominant in this context.  Their affiliations can differ from one oblast’ to another, but mostly they are under UOC MP or UOC KP.   

As a result some religious organizations can get land plots for the construction of their churches, while the other cannot. In some cases, which become more and more frequent, UOC MP simply seizes land plots for the construction of their churches without any legal grounds or documents. The authorities fail to react to such illegal actions.

In March 2012 100 famous Ukrainians in Crimea appealed to the President of Ukraine Yanukovich asking him to protect Ukrainian population of the peninsula from religious discrimination. Archbishop of  UOC KP for Simferopol and Crimea the Reverend Kliment said that both he and his parishioners  were shocked to learn that Simferopol city council refused to allot a land plot for the construction of Christ the Savior Cathedral in Simferopol ( Decision of February 16, 2012).   According to him, 2008 city council members gave their consent for the allotment. In some years the Eparchial Department prepared the feasibility study and cathedral blueprint, spending a lot of money in the process. Finally, in February 2010 the clergymen received the Act on allotment of the land plot and approval of all the documentation by all the agencies and authorities under the Ukrainian legislation in force.[26] It was only on July 3, 2012 that the municipal authorities allotted about 0.49 ha for the construction of Christ the Savior Cathedral. For the first time in 15 years this church was allotted a land plot for the construction of a house of worship in Crimea  .[27]

In July 2012 the Synod of UOC KP asked V.Yanukovich to resolve the situation in Donetsk oblast’, namely the biased treatment of Kyiv Patriarchate by municipal authorities. The Episcopate reminded that the attempts to seize the Ascension Cathedral in the village of Kamyanka Telman rayon Donetsk oblast’ have been going on for two years. In contempt of the Decision of the Highest Administrative Court of Ukraine of 2011 establishing the legality of the Instruction issued by the Head of Donetsk oblast’ administration in 1996 with regards to the transfer of the dilapidated church to the religious community of Kyiv Patriarchate, another court hearing on the same case was set up with the direct and indirect bureaucratic support with the goal of obtaining the court ruling in favor of the Moscow Patriarchate followers.   On July 17, 2012 Donetsk Circuit Administrative Court reconsidered the case and took the church away from the parishioners.[28] On September 13, 2012 Donetsk Appellate Administrative Court declined the appeal of the decision submitted by the parishioners.[29] As far back as March 2012 in spite of the Decision of the Highest Administrative Court of Ukraine, which assigned the church to the community, the municipal power suggested a joint service with UOC MP followers.[30] The UOC KP Synod also complained that after 2010 many patrons, who used to support the church, stopped doing it claiming that they do not want to “get into trouble with authorities because of their support of Kyiv Patriarchate”. “ These facts reflect only a small portion of the problems which Donetsk eparchy of  UOC KP, the clergy and believers face on everyday basis, due to the biased attitude demonstrated by many municipal officials in Donetsk oblast’. This prejudiced treatment of UOC under Kyiv Patriarchate is happening at the background of systematic and full-scope support for the Moscow patriarchate in Donbass region. This is a violation of the constitutional principle of the equality of all confessions in the face of the law and equal treatment of different Churches by the state” – reads the UOC KP appeal.[31]

In 2012 the Catholics of Sebastopol still did not get back the former St. Clement church. The building is currently a communal property and served for a long time as children’s movie-house “Druzhba”. Currently it is vacant and in dilapidated condition. “There are no grounds to transfer an historical building in the city center to the Catholics’ ownership, as the Catholicism always fought against the Orthodoxy” - stated a member of “Sebastopol Communists” fraction in the city council A.Maltsev.  The Roman-Catholic community informed that they were offered wither to buy the building or to build a new one. On April, 2012 over 100 Sebastopol Catholics attended the Easter Mass in front of the church building.[32]

4.    Recommendations

1)     The Ukrainian legislation should be harmonized with the requirements of Articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in consistency with judicial practice of the European Court on human rights.  The Guiding Principles for the analysis of legislation on religion or faith, approved by OSCT Parliamentary Assembly and Venetian Commission in 2004 [33] would be instrumental in the process.

2)     In order to eliminate the discriminatory administrative practices and conflicts between confessions précised legal norms on grounds, procedures and timeframes for the restitution of the church property should be devised. A detailed plan for the restitution of the church property with specified procedures and timeframes for each church would also be helpful. If the restitution of the church property is not feasible, certain compensation for the construction of new churches or allotment of new land plots should be provided for.

3)     Local self-governance bodies should revise their legal acts which contain discriminatory provisions and additional restrictions of the right to the freedom of faith, peaceful gatherings, lease of premises, land plots’ allotment and restitution of the church property, not stipulated by the law.  Clear legal principles of allotment land plots for the construction of houses of worship should be devised.

4)     The obligatory procedure for official approval of foreigners’ activity including preaching, religious teaching, performing religious rites or other canonical activities, should be cancelled (Article 24.4 of the Law of Ukraine “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations”). The invitation from a legitimate religious organizations whose dogmas have been approved by the state expertise, should suffice for the said activities of the foreign nationals in Ukraine.  Two-stage registration procedure for the foreigners staying in Ukraine temporarily should be eliminated, while the term for registration should be shortened as currently it contradicts the law in force.   

5)     The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine should oblige the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other central power bodies to develop the set of changes to the Cabinet of Ministers ‘of Ukraine Resolution № 25 of 28.03.2012. The representatives of the all-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations should be involved in the process. The goal of these changes would be extending the term of legal temporary stay in Ukraine for the clergymen-foreign nationals, in conformity with the term stated in the invitation and not exceeding 3 years.  

6)     State tax service of Ukraine, together with the representatives of the all-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations  should devise the changes to the Regulation on the Registry of non-profit institutions and organizations, approved by the Order of the State Tax Administration of Ukraine № 37 of 24.01.2011, with the goal of simplifying the procedure of granting the status of non-profit to the religious organizations, specifically, by their automatic inclusion into the  Registry of non-profit institutions and organizations,  and clearly defining the grounds for the exclusion of a religious organization from this Registry, in particular, if the said organization conducts entrepreneurial activity.  


[1] Prepared by V.Yavorsky, Board member of the UHUHR. Data provided by M.Vasin (Institute for religious freedom) were used in the Report.

[2] See the review of legal faults with respect to freedom of religion in the HR Reports “Human rights in Ukraine– 2009-2010”, which remain topical today.

[3] See e.g.  The Tithe Church – Ukrainians’ maturity test, Yu.Miroshnichenko, people’s deputy of Ukraine  (PR fraction), President Representative in the Supreme Rada “Ukrainian Pravda”, December 17,  2012

[4] See.  In Tithe Church museum – conflict between scholars and clergy// UP, November 26,  2012

[5] See complete text of the appeal:

[6] Expert Council on the freedom of conscience and religious organizations’activity is set up under the Ministry of Culture,

[7] See. On changes to the Cabinet of Ministers’ of Ukraine Resolution  № 953 of October, 30, 2008  #n2,

[8] See. The meeting of the government Commission for ensuring the rights of religious organizations postponed.  .09.2012,; The government Commission for ensuring the rights of religious organizations convened for the first time in 3 years (Photo)

[9] See more e.g. “Futile hopes: epilogue to the decision of the European Court on Human rights on the case “St.Michael’s parish v.s Ukraine”, G.Druzenko, Religious information service of Ukraine  , August 6,   2010 ,

[10] The meeting of the working group  on the draft law on freedom of conscience took place on February, 9

[11] See full text of the law “On changes to some legal acts of Ukraine re Ministry of Justice, Miistry of Culture,other central executive bodies, whose operation is governed and coordinated by respective ministers and State Spece Agency of Ukraine “

[12] See Open letter of NGOs and activists to the President of Ukraine V.Yanukovich on the need to veto draft law  № 10221 restricting the freedom of conscience in Ukraine з; High clergy appeal to the President of Ukraine to veto the changes to the Law “On freedom of conscience” See also: Public council of the Ministry of Culture proposes “one step” religious organizations; registration., All-Ukrainian Churches’ council calls for non-complication of the registration procedure  May18,  2012

[13] President requests immediate changes to the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organizations” to enhance the freedom of religion

[14] Battle is done, or what damage campaigning priests can cause …//RISU, November 1, 2012 року,

[15] «International Religious Freedom Report for 2011», Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State, USA,

[16] See also Ukrainian translation;

[17] See more: Informational Report of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine on situation and tendencies of development for religion and state-confessional relations in Ukraine (for 2011), See also Religious organizations in Ukraine ( as of  January 1,  2012 р)

[18] Available here:

[19] Court decision is available here::

[20] Court decision is available here::

[21] Court decision is available here:;

[22] See court rulings here:,,,

[23] Sumy bureaucrats and UOC MP activists prevented Baptists from organizing a children’s party // RISU,

[24] Court decision is available here:

[25] See more; Informational Report of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine on situation and tendencies of development for religion and state-confessional relations in Ukraine (for 2011)

[26] Ukrainians in the Crimea protest against religious discrimination Radio Svoboda, March 9,  2012

[27] Kyiv Patriarchate in the Crimea obtained a land plot for the house of worship // ВВС Ukraine, July 3, 2012.

[28] Court decision is available here::

[29] Court decision is available here::

[30] Donetsk oblast’ state administration gets involved in the conflict around Ascension Cathedral // RISU, March 6,2012

[31] See more: Appeal of the UOC KP Holy Synod  re violation of the believers’ rights in Donetsk region. // RISU,; UOC KP filed complaint to Yanukovich against his compatriots,  RISU,

[32] Sebastopol Catholics held Easter service in front of the cathedral, which was never restituted to them.

[33] Freedom of religion and faith in Ukraine in the context of adherence to the European standards/ Ed. By V.Yavorsky/ UHUHR, Center for political and legal research “SIM” Kharkiv, Folio, 2005.Available on  UHUHR web-site:




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