Standoff in impounded church continues in Ukraine


RIA Novosti, 29 February 2016


A provincial court turned down an appeal from believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow patriarchate (UPTsMP) and adopted a decision to extend the second seizure of the building of the Dormition church in the village of Ptichia in Rovno province in Ukraine, the rector of the church, Viktor Zemlianoy, told RIA Novosti on Monday.


The church building officially belongs to a parish of the canonical UPTsMP. In the middle of December 2015 the synod's Information Department of UPTsMP reported, citing eyewitnesses, that representatives of the UPTs of the Kiev patriarchate, which is not recognized by world Orthodoxy, with the support of the extremist organization Right Sector, which is banned in Russia, demanded of parishioners of the Dormition church that they transfer it into the jurisdiction of the UPTsKP. Eyewitnesses affirmed that believers were not allowed access to the church, were beaten with sticks and re-bars, had Molotov cocktails thrown at them, and were sprayed with pepper gas. In their turn, the police reported that not a single report from victims had been filed. About 400 persons in all participated in the confrontation. Some parishioners, who were inside the church, decided not to abandon it, fearing reprisals, and also that the church building would be seized. It has now been several months that the church's parishioners have been in a "state of siege."


In February, a Rovno court impounded the church building under the pretense of a threat of arson. UPTsMP believers filed an appeal in a higher court, after which the impoundment was removed. However some time later the Rovno court again impounded the building.


"The court reviewed our appeal, but it made the decision to extent the impoundment for an indefinite period. They want for us to abandon the premises of the church. But for now we are staying in it," Zemlianoy said. He said that if believers of the canonical church are still forced to leave the church, then they will try to recover another building on the territory of the church that is now illegally occupied by representatives of the so-called Kiev patriarchate.


In Ukraine at the present time the canonical UPTsMP is functioning, which is a self-administering church that is a member of the Moscow patriarchate, as well as church structures that are not recognized by world Orthodoxy: the Kiev patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAPTs). At the same time, the UPTsMP has frequently reported incidents of harassment of clergy and seizures of Orthodox church buildings by representatives of the KP. (tr. by PDS, posted 29 February 2016)

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