Russian authorities ban Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in occupied Zaporizhzhia region

Country: Ukraine

Date of incident: December 7, 2023

The Russian military-civilian administration in the occupied Zaporizhzhia oblast of Ukraine issued an order banning the activities of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), as well as the Knights of Columbus and Caritas organizations engaged in social service in the occupied territory. All movable and immovable property and land plots of the UGCC will also be seized. The Information Department of the UGCC reports they just become aware of this on December 7, although the document dates December 26, 2022.

On 7 December the UGCC announced on its website that it had just discovered that its activities had been officially banned by the Russian military-civilian administration in charge of the occupied territories of the Zaporizhzhia region, illegally 'annexed' to Russia on September 30, 2022.

The occupation forces claim the UGCC stored explosives and firearms in religious buildings, violating Russian Federation laws on religious and public organizations. They also allege involvement in mass riots, anti-Russian rallies, distributing literature inciting breach of territorial integrity, and active participation in extremist groups and neo-Nazi propaganda by UGCC communities in the region.

As reported on the Church's website, alongside the prohibition of the UGCC, the Russian occupation authorities have also ordered:

"to transfer movable and immovable property and land plots of the Church to the disposal of the occupation military-civilian administration of the Zaporizhzhia region;

terminate the lease agreements for premises and land plots previously concluded by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with local authorities in Zaporizhzhia region;

cease to register the religious community “Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” within the occupation authorities of Zaporizhzhia region;

prohibit persons who held leadership and administrative positions in the UGCC from registering public and religious organizations in the occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region."

Aside from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the “order” of the occupation authorities of the Russian Federation prohibits the activities of other organizations, in particular those engaged in social service and humanitarian support of the population in the occupied and de-occupied territories: “The Knights of Columbus” and the Caritas Charitable Foundation: Caritas Canada, Caritas USA, Caritas Poland, Caritas Czech Republic, Caritas Donetsk and Caritas Melitopol."

Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia had already expelled UGCC clergy in the occupied territories and have held two abducted priests since 16 November 2022.

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