Today, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation hosted a discussion on religious persecution in the Russian-occupied areas of the Donbas. The featured speaker was Oleksandr Zaiets, founder and chair of the board of the Kyiv-based Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF). He presented his organization’s report titled “Religious Freedom at Gunpoint: Russian Terror in the Occupied Territories of Eastern Ukraine,” which describes, as he explained, widespread violations of religious freedom- -except in the case of the Russian Orthodox Church — by Russian-led authorities in the Donetsk and Luhansk. The abuses have included the killing, torture and harassment of believers and the confiscation or shuttering of places of worship. As stated in the report, “all this has become a real nightmare for local religious communities that did not experience such persecution even during the Soviet terror times.” Mr. Zaiets said that thanks to foreign criticism the violence against believers has subsided but the continuing violations of religious rights in the occupied Donbas do not currently elicit much reaction from the international community. He called for more attention from abroad so that persecuted religious communities can safely come out of the underground and reclaim their houses of worship.
Photo: Oleksandr Zaiets (L), board chair of IRF, and Serge Duss, the organization’s Washington liaison. (Credit: Adrian Karmazyn)