Russian officials and soldiers harass churches in Ukraine


Eastern Europe


Destroyed church in Druzhkivka, Eastern Ukraine. Photo AFP, Aris Messinis

In the parts of Ukraine controlled by Russia, churches have been harassed by Russian officials.

At least four Protestant churches were recently visited by Russian officials or soldiers, reports the Dutch Underground Church Foundation (SDOK) on Friday to the Christian Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad. This organisation helps persecuted Christians worldwide. According to the organisation, Russians searched the properties, confiscated equipment, demanded documents and, in one case, forcibly evicted Christians from their church buildings.

Three churches in the Donetsk region -two in Mariupol and one in Manhush- and one in Vasilievka, in the Zaporizhzhia region, were involved.

In Manhush, the Russian army expelled believers from their house of prayer in June. A pastor of the church in Vasilievka also reported a visit from the authorities in June. According to him, officers from the FSB security service came to the church, registered everyone and said they were going to close the church. The officers then went to the pastor’s house, conducted a search and took away laptops and phones for inspection.

In Mariupol, a church building was destroyed when the war broke out. Only the basement remained intact. On Sunday, June 12th, a group of church members gathered there for the service. Armed men came with threats and demanded the church’s registration documents.

Church leaders in the Ukrainian region are asking for prayer, SDOK said. “Every time the frontline of the war moves, we, Christians, should pray for the churches and individual Christians who are behind the frontline now,” SDOK director André van Grol said.

Mortal danger

According to Jan Sobilo, Ordinary of the Latin Rite of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia Diocese in Ukraine, not a single Roman Catholic priest remained in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine because their lives were in mortal danger. He said so in an interview with the website of the Lviv Archdiocese.

“After 2014, our priests served even in Donetsk and Luhansk, but the situation worsened. And now there are no more options: I didn’t let those who asked to stay, and everyone asked to stay”, said the church officer.

“Russian soldiers consider Catholic priests to be spies of the Vatican, as the NKVDists did in their time, so their fate would have been unequivocal. I also did not allow our nuns to stay. Rape and torture are a consequence of the current war, so I strongly insist that the sisters do not hurry to return until the war is over,” Sobilo added.

The bishop said that the priests who left the occupied territories are now trying to establish contact with their parishioners.

“Our churches in Berdiansk and Melitopol are now temporarily served by remaining Catholic brothers of the Greek rite. In Mariupol, service is impossible.”


The Catholic German newspaper Die Tagespost also reports on the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, saying that people “endure the arbitrariness of the occupying soldiers”. Exemplary is the story of a 70-year-old woman who fled Kherson. When reaching a Russian checkpoint, she was beaten by the Russian military for refusing to surrender her Ukrainian passport. Seriously injured in the head and spine, she escaped in her neighbours’ getaway car. Finally, an evacuation train was able to take her to Lviv, where she is still in a hospital after an operation on her spine and is now taking her first steps without outside help.



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