Ukrainian police blocks churchgoers


Eastern Europe


Arguing with the police. Still from video at News.church.ua

The police stopped churchgoers in Ukraine from entering their ‘temple’. The Russian church has to register before it can have services legally. The incident is part of a broader conflict between the Russian and the Ukrainian branch of the Orthodox Church.

The platform Religion in Ukraine reported the incident. It happened in the village of Bakhtin in the Vinnytsia Oblast in the southwest, on the Moldovan border, on November 18th already.

A group of worshipers walked to the building for the service. The police blocked access to the disputed church of the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). That means: that part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that chooses to remain under the ecclesiastical authority of Moscow rather than Kiev. The Kiev Patriarchate (KP) has had this authority since 2019. Still, the Russian church does not agree with that decision of the Orthodox’ pope’, patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Worship in own church

The official church website of the Russian part of the Orthodox Church says that the churchgoers were “exercising their legal right to worship in their own church”. According to the Russian church, the police was supported by people from the Ukrainian church.

The church authorities accuse the police of provocation. It follows a legal and administrative battle about the registration of the church. The Russian groups have delivered all the documents for this process, but they say registration was formally denied. The consequence was that the police, in an action of “law enforcement”, did not allow the people into the local church. However, they see themselves as the “rightful owners”, the church website says.

Archpriest Vasyl Balan called the situation a provocation, specially arranged by the local police leadership and government officials. “There were a lot of policemen – they were preparing for this. When we approached, a police representative instructed the supporters of the “Ukrainian church” to go to the door of the temple, and themselves became a wall in front of them so as not to miss us”, Balan says. “It turned out to be a provocation from the police and the authorities. made of agreements.”

The worshipers started singing and praying in front of the church.

Arguing by singing.png
Singing as form of protest. Photo from video at News.church.ua

Balan also said that there was no church in the village before and that it was the Orthodox clergy who restored the church, which was in a state of disrepair. According to him, the overwhelming majority of people who support the Ukrainian part of the church have never been to the church at all. And from 2019, after the beginning of provocations by supporters of the Ukrainian church, the Russian religious community was forced to pray in a small room.

Many insults and threats

Since 2019, when the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was recognised, the aggression started against those who remained faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate. The archpriest in the region, Igor Klos, says about that: “Our people are intimidated there, they are afraid, for three years there have been many insults and threats.”

In many more places in Ukraine, there is aggression between members of the two branches of the church. A United Nations document recently even spoke about “persecution”.



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