Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Chargé d'Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy at UNSC briefing on the issue of persecution of Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Mr.President,

We thank Ms.Nihal Saad and Mr. Yan Taksyur for their remarks.

At the outset, I would like to say again, as we did before, that Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) did not ask us to hold this meeting and did not authorize us to speak on its behalf. We are not speaking on behalf of the UOC or its particular priests or parishioners. We are well aware of the conditions in which our fellow believers in Ukraine find themselves. We know what pressure the Zelensky regime exerts on them, and we have no illusions as to what their assessment of our today’s efforts, about which we most likely will learn from social media, are really worth.

Colleagues,

Russia already drew the Council's attention to Kiev’s campaign that aims to destroy canonical Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine. That was at a Security Council meeting on 17 January 2023, when the actual seizure of UOC churches, persecution and beatings of clergy, which had been going on since the deadly coup d'état in Kiev in 2014, stepped up to a new legislative level. As Jan Taksyur already said today, on January 19 draft law No. 8371 was introduced in the Parliament of Ukraine, essentially providing for the banning of the UOC and the seizure of its churches. As far as we understand, it may be put to a vote as early as tomorrow, July 27.

For the moment, I leave aside the fact that this draft law grossly contradicts at least ten articles of the Constitution of Ukraine regulating freedom of speech and, above all, civil liberties. It ignores the fact that the UOC is an independent church with its own governing bodies operating under Ukrainian law, and that it is not governed from Russia. Also, it discards the fact that there has been no trial of the UOC in Ukraine and its alleged violations of Ukrainian law have not been established in court. Colleagues, there is simply no point in talking about this, since Ukraine has ceased to be a state governed by the rule of law since at least 2014, and the Kiev regime does what it wants without regard for the law.

Just think of the blatant lawlessness and defiance of basic religious freedoms that is unfolding before your eyes. Just think that the Parliament in Kiev is considering a legislative ban and seizure of the property of the canonical church with a centuries-old history, to which the majority of believers in Ukraine belong. There are no likes to such a cynical act in modern history. For example, how would our host country react if the President of the United States proposed to Congress to ban the Catholic Church and seize St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York on the grounds that Catholics are subordinate to the Pope? Or if he arrested one of the Roman Catholic Cardinals in the US? Or, for example, if Britain were to arrest one of the leaders of the Muslim community, and the British Parliament were debating a bill to ban this religion in the country on the pretext that the holy places of Islam are in Mecca and Medina?

Is this hard for you to imagine? For us too, it looks more like a plot of a fantasy movie. Unfortunately, in Ukraine this terrible plot is being enacted before our eyes, with the connivance of the Western sponsors of the Kiev regime.

The Zelensky regime pursues a consistent state policy towards destroying Canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine. The set of measures taken includes legal bans, systematic searches, church raids, interrogations of parishioners and clergy, arrests, physical violence, and vandalism. State and pro-government media systematically publish false information discrediting the Church and its hierarchs.

Without waiting for pseudo-legislative measures, the Kiev regime decided to seize the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, the holiest shrine of canonical Orthodox Christianity, from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and invoked false charges to impose a house arrest on its vicar, Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl. On July 14, after 24/7 house arrest, he was placed in a detention center. Video footage with a tragic picture of an elderly respectful church hierarch being forced to remove his Panghagia before the imprisonment, shocked the entire Orthodox world. For the first time in modern history, a high-ranking church hierarch was persecuted by a state and sent to jail for the cause of faith.

With their usual cynicism, the Kiev authorities put him on bail of 33 million hryvnias, i.e. about one million dollars. For comparison, I will mention another court decision of the Kiev authorities. Denis Varodi, a former child tutor from the village of Chinadievo in the Transcarpathian region, who tried to sell and traffic an 11-month-old baby boy for 25 thousand dollars to one of the EU countries, was released early this week on bail of $27 thousand. Now the man caught red-handed in human trafficking is walking free. And the spiritual leader of millions of believers, an elderly and sick man in need of daily care, is being held in a prison cell.

We are calling on the entire international community and all spiritual leaders to come forward in defense of Metropolitan Pavel.

Colleagues,

The scale of persecution of UOC is reminiscent of the most tragic totalitarian episodes in world history. The Kiev regime has started to incriminate UOC with offences against state and public security. According to a report published in early April 2023 by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), it has conducted more than 40 so-called "comprehensive counterintelligence activities" since 2022. From October 2022 through May 2023 alone, the SBU held about 100 searches in monasteries, churches, and administrative buildings of UOC across Ukraine. Almost 250 clergymen of the UOC were banned from entering the country, which made them pariahs in their homeland. 61 criminal proceedings have been initiated against clergy, including 14 bishops, on charges of "state treason" and "incitement of religious hatred." 19 metropolitans were deprived of Ukrainian citizenship under various pretexts. In February 2023, on the recommendation of the Kiev regime, a priest of the UOC was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of "anti-Ukrainian activity".  Ukrainian security forces detained him in Krasnolimansk district of the Donetsk People’s Republic, which is tremporarily controlled by the Kiev regime. A total of seven clergymen were given sentence.

Here is a piece from the statement of Archbishop Gedeon, whom British censorship did not give the floor today. “I recently met with clergy who had arrived from Ukraine. I cannot specify details out of concern for their safety. They shared a terrible case that had occurred in early May in the east of Ukraine. Ukrainian servicemen drove four clergymen into ice-cold water and forced them to renounce their faith and start saying "Glory to Ukraine!" These saints of God, may they be blessed, have not renounced. Three of them drowned, and one lost consciousness and was carried further downstream. The Ukrainian military decided that he was dead, and they did not take him away, but he remained alive and told all this”.

Colleagues,

By cruel treatment of Metropolitan Pavel, Kiev seeks to smother the resistance of Orthodox Christians who are fighting for their canonical Church, and above all to break the resistance of the clergy from the main sanctuary of Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine - the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, whom the Kiev authorities are forcing to leave the premises.

On June 6, 2023, the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine O. Tkachenko demanded that the monks vacate the premises within three days. They refused to comply with this criminal order and declined the property handover sheet. On June 13, 2023, a Kiev court cynically dismissed the UOC's lawsuit against the museum-reserve “Kiev Pechersk Lavra” to ensure that the monastery community were not prevented from performing officiation.

On June 30, 2023, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the national reserve "Kiev-Pechersk Lavra" demanded from the monks of the UOC to move from the buildings of the Lavra by July 4. The UOC refused to comply citing the order as illegal. There are no court rulings on this issue, and similar orders of the authorities have been appealed against through judicial procedures. Despite this, on July 4, the so-called specialized commission of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine started to "seal off", i.e. expropriate the premises from the monks.

On July 6, Nikita Chekman, the lawyer acting on behalf of the UOC, stated that representatives of the national reserve "Kiev-Pechersk Lavra" broke the locks and entered building No.70 of the monastery. They were assisted by the police. He also published photos showing police officers near the Lavra, including members of the special task force, who cordoned off the premises.

As of July 14, at least 8 buildings located on the territory of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra are known to have been closed. Police disperse all the parishioners who gather to support the monks.

This creates unbearable conditions for the monks living in the monastery. With the help of law enforcement agencies, actions are being taken to force them out.

According to media reports, leader of the Kiev regime is discussing with Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople the transfer of the entire compound of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra to the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a puppet structure that was created on the initiative of former President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko. As we have heard today, this is a purely political, schismatic project rejected by the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Christians in Ukraine.

Here again, the rhetorical question arises. Can a New York court seize a Catholic or Orthodox cathedral and hand it over to, for example, the Baptists? If not, then why do our American colleagues who pose as "universal human rights defenders", seem to have water in their mouths in relation to the outrage that is taking place in Ukraine?

At the same time, cultural, spiritual and historical values belonging to the Ukrainian people are being plundered. On June 28, the press service of the Louvre in Paris reported that valuable exhibits, including 4 icons of the Byzantine period (VI-VII centuries), belonging to the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts (Kiev) were transferred to the museum for "temporary storage and exposition". In addition, open sources contain information about the export of "treasures of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra" abroad.

Colleagues,

The tragedy of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout Ukraine a war is waged on canonical Orthodox Christianity. At the regional level, primarily in western Ukraine, a campaign to ban the UOC has already started. The relevant decisions were adopted in in April-May 2023 in Volyn, Ivano-Frankovsk, Zhitomir, Lvov, Rivne, Chernovtsy and Khmelnytsky regions. The councils of Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, Kirovograd, Chernivtsi, Ternopol and Rivne regions called on the Verkhovna Rada to ban the UOC throughout the country. The city councils of Brovary, Kamyanets-Podolskyi, Sumy, Chernivtsi passed resolutions on confiscation of UOC land plots.

Today the Foreign Ministry of Russia published a report “Illegal actions by the Kiev regime targeting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), its clergy and parishioners”. We will surely familiarize you with its contents.

Colleagues,

Repressions of the Kiev regime have also affected another holy site, the Pochaev Lavra in the Ternopol region. On April 5, 2023, the website of the Verkhovna Rada published a draft appeal to the government requesting to terminate the lease agreement for this monastery with the UOC.

On July 10, schismatics from the OCU broke into the Transfiguration Cathedral in Bila Tserkva of the Kiev region. They cut the locks, broke out the doors, blocked the gates and did not let the believers inside. Those who tried to get to the service were sprayed at with pepper gas, even fire extinguishers were used. Local authorities and police supported the intruders. For several months by now, the believers have been struggling for the Transfiguration Cathedral.

Colleagues,

No allegations against Russia and no fabrications against the canonical Orthodox Church in Ukraine give Kiev an indulgence for destroying Orthodox Christianity or for sending to prison respected and elderly clergymen whose only fault is that they defend their faith. What right does the Zelensky regime have to expel monks from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, one of the main shrines of canonical Orthodox Church? In any other country, can the parliament, at the suggestion of the president, pass a law banning a church whose parishioners constitute the majority of believers in that country? Why do our Western colleagues who have influence on the Kiev regime, turn a blind eye, either shamefully or deliberately, when this is happening in Ukraine? Your celebrated values, where are they now? Or, blinded by Russophobia, are you ready to condone absolutely any crimes of the Kiev regime, including those against freedom of religion? I hope that the public in your countries will give a fair assessment to this, if you are afraid to do so.

Thank you.

Video of the statement

 

Right of reply:

Colleagues, 

I must admit that we are extremely disappointed and perplexed by the attempts of a number of Western delegations to speculate on this week's huge tragedy – the serious damage to the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odessa – and attribute responsibility for this to Russia. If your capitals gave any importance to the truth, they would refrain from such insinuations. After all, if a Russian missile really had hit the Cathedral, as the Zelensky regime rushes to claim, nothing would have been left of it. However, the Cathedral is damaged, but not destroyed.

Interior damage of the Cathedral betrays the Kiev regime and unmistakably indicates that the Cathedral was hit by an anti-aircraft munition of the Ukrainian air defense forces. As you know, air defense missiles are filled with thousands of small metal elements, which, when exploding in the air, should ensure maximum dispersion and damage of aircraft. It is exactly these elements that we see scattered all over the place in the photos that Ukrainians post on social networks. Assault missiles do not have such elements and their power is significantly greater.

Moreover, the same users posted numerous videos showing an air defense missile launching, but failing to gain altitude and immediately falling and exploding. In the flash of the explosion, the spire of the bell tower of the Transfiguration Cathedral, which is right in the epicenter, is clearly visible.

Colleagues,

As we stated repeatedly at previous meetings of the Council, during high precision Russian strikes on military infrastructure and facilities related to the military capacity of the Kiev regime, the main and actually the only danger for civilians in Ukraine are the actions of Ukrainian air defense, which is being placed in residential areas and city centers in violation of basic norms of international humanitarian law.

On social media, one can find dozens of similar photos from Odessa, taken on the eve of the anti-aircraft missile hitting the Cathedral. If the air defense facilities had been located outside residential neighborhoods, this tragedy would not have happened, like many others in which civilians were killed – for peaceful civil facilities are not our targets.

Incidentally, the same footages show munitions and equipment explode and detonate at what is said to be grain storage and porting facilities, which Ukraine, as is already evident today, used for military purposes under the cover and in violation of the Black Sea Initiative.

Colleagues,

It is quite indicative that instead of correcting this situation with air defense systems, Zelensky's regime decided to punish even more severely all those who post such truthful accounts that compromise the Ukrainian authorities. As far as we know, a draft law has been hastily submitted to the Ukrainian parliament, which provides for 3 years of imprisonment for authors of such publications. Conclusions are up to you.  

Thank you.

Video of the statement