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Russia is weaponizing religion in occupied Ukraine – ISW

10.04.2023, 11:48
Photo: RFE/RL
Photo: RFE/RL

Russian occupation authorities are likely conducting a campaign of systematic religious persecution in occupied Ukraine, writes Ukrinform, citing a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

"Russia continues to weaponize religion in an effort to discredit Ukraine in the international arena and is using information operations about religion to advance military objectives despite itself committing gross violations of religious freedom in occupied Ukraine," the report says.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 Russian soldiers or occupations authorities have reportedly committed at least 76 acts of religious persecution in Ukraine.

In particular, according to the ISW, Russian authorities have closed, nationalized, or forcefully converted at least 26 places of worship to the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, killed or seized at least 29 clergy or religious leaders, and looted, desecrated, or deliberately destroyed at least 13 places of worship in occupied Ukraine.

The ISW notes that these cases of religious repression are not likely isolated incidents but rather part of a deliberate campaign to systematically eradicate “undesirable” religious organizations in Ukraine and promote the Moscow Patriarchate.

They stress that Russian occupation officials have been repressing Ukrainian religious communities in proxy republics in eastern Ukraine and in illegally occupied Crimea since 2014.

Earlier, "Ukrainian Pravda" reported that UOC MP Metropolitan Onuphrius (birthname Orest Berezovsky) and over 20 clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate have Russian citizenship.

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