Ukraine: Three Protestant churches in Donetsk banned

The unrecognised Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, has this summer banned three Protestant churches. One of the churches appears still able to meet for worship as it tries to gain registration. The rebel entity's latest Religion Law change restricts registered religious associations' activities to "participants and/or members". In June the Culture Minister ordered musical and other artistic institutions to display lists of banned books & organisations. (Source: Forum 18)

Felix Corley

On 17 June 2021, the internationally unrecognised Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) entity's General Prosecutor's Office announced that prosecutors had sent a suit to the Arbitration Court in Donetsk to liquidate two Protestant churches, Good News Baptist Church and the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The rebel-held entity in eastern Ukraine claimed the suits had been launched "with the aim of removing violations" of the Religion Law, and announced that the Arbitration Court had upheld the suits and banned the two churches (see below).

On 25 June, the General Prosecutor's Office made a further announcement that Yenakievo Prosecutor's Office had sent a suit to the Arbitration Court in Donetsk to ban the activity of a Baptist church in the town of Yenakievo, Church of the Awakening, as well as any "branches or sub-divisions". Church of the Awakening was taken by surprise by the announcement. "Nobody informed them," a Baptist told Forum 18 on 27 September. "But their registration documents have once again been submitted for consideration. There is a certificate from the Justice Ministry that the documents are under consideration." Baptists told Forum 18 that the Arbitration Court upheld the suit and banned the Church of the Awakening. Officials noted though that the registration denials did not deprive the Church of the right to re-submit documents. "So far, this court decision has not affected the life of the church" (see below)

Genral Prosecutor's Office and Arbitration Court officials have refused to answer any questions. An official of the Religion and Nationalities Department of the Culture Ministry in Donetsk, who refused to give his name, refused to say why prosecutors had brought suits to court to liquidate the three Protestant Churches. "I can't say by phone," he told Forum 18 and put the phone down (see below).

The unrecognised DPR authorities ban religious communities on three grounds: firstly for not having the registration officials demand; secondly after being specifically banned by a court for failing to gain registration; and thirdly after a court has found them to be "extremist". All non-Moscow Patriarchate religious communities are banned from functioning if they failed to get re-registration by 1 March 2019 (see below).

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