Under the pretext of identifying a threat to international peace and security, representatives of the Russian Federation called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to complain about a proposed amendment to an existing law under consideration by the government of Ukraine. The amendment states that should an aggressor country attack Ukraine and proceed to use any organization, religious or otherwise, to try to influence people and life in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government may dissolve such an organization.
Under this law, claims the Russian Federation, the Ukrainian government could eliminate the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is directed from Moscow.
“Russia is trying to justify its atrocities and other abuses by framing its war of aggression as a holy war between Good and Evil, in addition to promoting the phony pretense of ‘denazification’ of Ukraine,” said United States Alternate Representative to the United Nations, Robert Wood. “We should all see through this façade and focus on the well-documented and systematic policy of religious oppression in the territories under Russia’s occupation.”
“Since Russia’s invasion in 2014, its war of aggression has included repression of beliefs against Muslims, Jews, Orthodox, Catholics, evangelicals, and other religious groups,” he said. “We are concerned about reports that Russia’s occupation authorities continue to detain and physically abuse, torture, and imprison individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs or affiliations, and to baselessly apply ‘extremist,’ ‘terrorist,’ or ‘undesirable,’ designations against religious groups.”
“Bishop Ivan Rusyn of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church has publicly mourned the killing of his church’s pastors, noting that in Russia-occupied areas, the church had been forced underground,” said Ambassador Wood. “His plea was simple: ‘Please, hear our cry.’”
“We must all hear it. We must all look at past Russia’s disingenuous claims today to the facts in the many well-documented reports, including how Russia’s relentless bombings and missile strikes have hit places of worship and other religious sites,” he said. “Earlier this month, UNESCO reported it had verified damage to 124 religious sites in Ukraine, in addition to other cultural sites. The Ukrainian organization Heritage Emergency Response Initiative puts the total closer to 700.”
“As Russia’s aggression against Ukraine continues, the Kremlin seeks to exacerbate divisions within the Orthodox Church and weaponize the faith of those Ukrainian citizens who belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church,” said Ambassador Wood. “We urge the Kremlin to cease this senseless war of choice and respect the human rights of all.”