Persecution of Belarusian Cristians for Anti-war Stance
Belarusian Orthodox Church
Rev. MIKHAIL MARUGO, Orthodox Church (Minsk)
On 28 February 2022, priest Mikhail Marugo was detained during an anti-war rally in the vicinity of the Minsk railway station. He was holding a bouquet of flowers. On 2 March, he was punished with 13-day administrative arrest which he served in the temporary detention centre in Žodzino.
ANASTASIA NEKRASHEVICH, AKSANA FIODARAVA, TATSIANA KOTES, KATSIARYNA MIKHAILAVA, Belarusian Orthodox Church (Minsk); journalists YAUHIEN BATURA and DZIYANA SERADZJUK
On 3 March 2022, Orthodox mothers of soldiers planned to pray together at the evening service in the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk. On the same day, the event was announced on the anti-war Telegram channel, Mothers’ Union. Law enforcement agencies attempted to disrupt the event. 20 minutes before the 6 pm. evening service, Yeuhien Batura and Dziyana Seradzjuk — journalists of the Novy Čas newspaper and a married couple — were detained near the Cathedral. They were taken to the temporary detention centre on Akrescina Street. On 4 March, the judge of the Centraĺny District Court of Minsk, Dzmitry Karsyuk, imposed each of them 15 days of administrative arrest under article 24.3 (Disobedience to a lawful order or demand of an official in the exercise of his official powers) of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Before the service, special vehicles of law enforcement agencies and plainclothes riot police and ordinary police officers were arrived to the Cathedral. At the entrance, they checked documents took photographs and videos of many women. During the service, law enforcement officers in plain clothes with walkie-talkies were continuously moving inside the church. Women prayed and some had icons in their hands; there were no political slogans or banners. Despite Rev. Ihar Latushka’s request to leave the women alone, four parishioners — Anastasia Nekarshevich, Aksana Fiodarava, Tatsiana Kotes, and Katsiaryna Mikhailava — were detained allegedly for identification after the service. In the police bus, their passports and smartphones were checked for subscriptions to opposition Telegram channels and photographs from the protests. The women were taken to the Centraĺny District Department of Internal Affairs of Minsk. They were interviewed and warned about the consequences of taking part in unauthorized rallies; then they were released. On 4 March, police arrived at the house of another woman who had attended the service in the Cathedral the night before and was photographed at the entrance. She was not at home. The Norwegian human rights organization Forum 18 reported on this incident.
Rev. ANDREI NAZDRYN, Orthodox Church (Hrodna)
It is known that following Volha Bondarava’s denunciation in connection with Rev. Nazdryn’s views on the war in Ukraine, the police conducted “a prophylactic conversation about compliance with the law and prevention of extremist offences and crimes” with him. On 18 May, the priest was dismissed from all positions in the Hrodna eparchy: rector of the St Spyridon of Trimythous parish in Hrodna, head of the missionary department and responsible for physical culture and sports in the Hrodna eparchy.
Rev. ULADZISLAU BAHAMOLNIKAU, Orthodox Church (Minsk)
The cleric of the Theophany parish in Minsk was brutally detained on 31 August 2022. On 1 September, he was arrested for 14 days. The pro-regime Telegram channels reported that the priest who helped Ukrainian refugees was allegedly prosecuted for raising funds for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. After 14 days, the priest was not released; instead, he was arrested for another 15 days. The second term was supposed to end on 29 September. However, the priest was not released again: another trial was held and he was arrested for another 15 days. The arrest was supposed to end on 14 October, however, Bahamolnikau was not released once again; he was convicted for another 15 days. In total, the priest will spend at least 59 days in prison. On 28 October, the priest was sentenced to another 15 days of arrest, and again to 14 days of arrest — on 14 November. In total, he will spend in custody 88 days.
ALEH NAHORNY, Orthodox Church (Minsk)
Aleh Nahorny, an Orthodox faithful, publicist, a well-known researcher of sects in Belarus, author of the blog Sectologist On-duty, and editor of the site about sects, sekty.by. Nagorny studied at the Minsk Theological Seminary in Žyrovičy. He was a lecturer at many events and created — with the support of the Orthodox Church — the Center for the Protection of Health of Family and Person. The Christian Vision website frequently published his anti-war texts and his assessments of the political crisis in Belarus. He was detained on 8 November, but this only became known on 10 November 2022 when a so-called “repentant“ video with him appeared on the GUBOPiK (Ministry of Internal Affairs Department for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption; routinely used for political persecutions and violence) Telegram channel; there, Nahorny is referred to as a “sectarian” and accused of allegedly distributing “fascist symbols” (although Nahorny has consistently opposed extremism and radicalism). He is threatened with a criminal case for “inciting hostility towards the Russians”. He was sentenced to a 15-day administrative arrest under art. 19.10 of the Administrative Code (Propaganda or public demonstration, production, distribution of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia).
Roman Catholic Church in Belarus
Rev. ALIAKSANDR BARAN, Roman Catholic Church (Lyntupy)
The rector of the parish in Lyntupy was detained on 25 March 2022 under art. 24.23 (unauthorized picketing) of the Code of Administrative Offences for the white-red-white Belarusian and the Ukrainian flags on his social media avatar and art. 19.11 (dissemination of extremist materials). Spent 6 days in a temporary detention centre. On 4 April, a court in Pastavy sentenced the priest to 10 days of arrest. It became known on 10 August 2022 that he again was sentenced to 17 days of arrest under art. 24.23.
Rev. ANDRZEJ BULCZAK, Roman Catholic Church (Pastavy)
The rector of the Merciful Jesus parish was supposed to be tried on 25 March 2022 for the video about the opposition to war among Belarusian. Rev Bulczak is a Polish citizen; he lived in Belarus for 14 years. Because of the threat of persecution, he was forced to flee the country. On 13 May, he was fined in absentia 30 basic units under art. 19.11 (dissemination of extremist materials) of the Code of Administrative Offences.
ALIAKSANDR DANILEVICH, Roman Catholic Church (Minsk)
Aliaksandr Stanislavavich Danilevich, a parishioner of St Simeon and St Elena parish in Minsk (Red Church), lawyer, and father of many children was detained on 20 May 2022 as part of a criminal case. He was kept in the KGB pre-trial detention centre. He was charged under part 3 of art. 361 (Calls for restrictive measures (sanctions), other actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of Belarus) of the Criminal Code and moved to the pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) no. 1 in Minsk. Shortly before his arrest, Danilevich signed an anti-war appeal of Belarusian lawyers against the war in Ukraine. His decision he explained by faith in God and the desire to follow God’s commandments. Soon after, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him by the professional body. Danilevich was also dismissed from the Belarusian State University where he taught for more than 20 years at the Faculty of International Relations. A political prisoner.
Rev. ANDREI KEULICH, Roman Catholic Church (Horki)
The dean of the Mahilioŭ deanery and rector of the Mother of God of Bialyničy parish was detained after Mass in the church in Horki (Mahiloŭ region) on 18 April 2022. In the Horki District Department of Internal Affairs, a protocol was drawn up against him under part 2 of art. 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences in connection with Facebook reposts from the independent media Belsat and Radio Liberty regarding the Russian military aggression against Ukraine. His mobile phone was seized. On 12 May, a court fined the priest 20 basic units.
Rev. IGOR LACHOUK, Roman Catholic Church (Stoŭbcy)
On 4 March 2022, the rector of the St Kazimir parish led a pilgrimage along the border with Ukraine with a statue of the Archangel Michael. During the event «exorcisms to expel the demon of war from the Kremlin were read”. On 20 April, the priest received a summons for “dissemination of extremist materials” (art. 19.11) on social media. The court hearing took place on 28 April. The priest was fined 30 base units.
Rev. YAUHEN UCHKURONIS, Roman Catholic Church (Smargoń)
The rector of the St John Paul II parish was accused of distributing ‘extremist materials’ for reposting on Facebook publications of Belarusian independent media regarded by the regime authorities as ‘extremist’. On 8 July the priest was fined 20 basic units.
Rev. ANDREI VASHCHUK SDS, Roman Catholic Church (Viciebsk)
The rector of the Holy Spirit parish was detained on 15 July under part 1 of art. 24.23 (violation of the procedure for organizing or holding mass events) of the Code of Administrative Offences. He was kept in the Pieršamajski District Department of Internal Affairs in Viciebsk until the trial. He was subjected to administrative arrest for 15 days twice: on 18 July, then on 23 July it became known that he received another 15 days of arrest. Pro-government Telegram channels launched a discrediting campaign against him. On 15 August, he fled the country. On 9 September, the priest was fined in absentia 320 rubles under art. 19.10.
Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
Rev. VASIL YAHORAU, Greek Catholic Church (Mahiloŭ)
The rector of the Mother of God of Bialyničy parish was detained on 25 March 2022 for a sticker “Ukraine, forgive” on his car. From 25 March to 28 March, he was kept in a temporary detention centre. On 28 March, the court fined him 50 basic units.
Evangelical Christian Baptists
PAVEL LARYN, Evangelical Christian Baptists (Minsk)
Pavel Laryn studied at the Minsk Theological Seminary of the Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists. On 24 February 2022, he posted an anti-war message in a local chat; on the following day he was arrested for 15 days. Two months later, he was detained again and charged under the Criminal Code art. 368 (Insulting the President of the Republic of Belarus) and art. 369 (Insulting a representative of authority). He was sentenced to 18 months in a penal colony.
An overview of the persecution of clergy in the context of the unfolding Russian aggression against Ukraine was published by the Norwegian human rights organization, Forum 18, in its report, Persecution of Christian Leaders Who Oppose the Violence of the Regime and the War with Ukraine, on 13 April 2022; as well as Natallia Vasilevich in her column for DW, The War in Ukraine as a New Impetus for the Belarusian Church Protest, on 16 April 2022. Both reports state that the activities of the clergy are monitored because they are people of authority in their communities.
2. Persecution of Christians for Anti-war Stance in Russia and Other Countries
Russian Orthodox Church
Rev. IOANN BURDIN, Russian Orthodox Church (Kostroma Oblast)
On 6 March, Forgiveness Sunday, the rector of the Resurrection of Christ church in the village of Karabanovo (Krasnoselsky District, Kostroma Oblast), Rev. Ioann Burdin, in a sermon said that he was praying for peace on Ukrainian soil. About 10 people were present, one of whom reported to the police. Two hours later, the police arrived at the church. A protocol was drawn up against the priest for discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In addition to the sermon, he was also accused of publishing a statement condemning the “special military operation” on the territory of Ukraine on the parish website. The statement signed by Rev. Burdin and Rev. Georgy Edelstein said: “We Christians must not stand aside when a brother kills a brother, a Christian – a Christian. We cannot shyly cover our eyes and call black white, evil – good, say that Abel was probably wrong provoking his older brother.» Later, at the request of the Metropolitan of Kostroma and Nerekhta Ferapont, this message was deleted. On 7 March, the case was transferred to the court of the Krasnoselsky District of the Kostroma Oblast, however, judge Anna Artimovskaya refused to consider this case and sent it to the court of the Kostroma district where Rev. Burdin is registered. Initially, the judge of the Kostroma District Court, Aleksey Chudetsky, also refused to consider it and returned the protocol to the police for revision on 9 March. On 10 March, the same judge found Rev. Burdin guilty and fined him 35,000 rubles.
In April, the priest was also forced to leave the active ministry and the rectorship at the church of the Resurrection of Christ.
Deacon DMITRY BAEV, Russian Orthodox Church (Kirov, Russia)
Dmitry Baev, deacon of St John the Baptist parish in Kirov, a graduate of the Vyatka Theological School, left Russia immediately after the start of the war. He has been publishing anti-war articles and videos on his VKontakte social network page (currently deleted or blocked). Metropolitan of Vyatka and Sloboda Mark suspended him from ministry and referred his case to the church court on 11 March. On 23 March, a case was opened against the deacon under the newly introduced law on fakes and discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. He is accused of posting «deliberately false information containing materials on the use of the armed forces of the Russian Federation for protection of the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens.» Baev’s apartment in Kirov was searched. The deacon was put on the federal wanted list.
Archdeacon ANDREY KURAEV, Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow)
Suspended archdeacon, famous writer and missionary, published in his social networks anti-war texts. On 21 March, his LiveJournal blog was blocked in Russia. On 23 August, Nikulino court of Moscow fined him for 30,000 rubles for a post in LiveJournal from 18 April, where archdeacon reflected on Russian civil war 1918-1923 and in some passages touched upon contemporary situation. The court considered it an offence under part 1 art. 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences (discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation). The post however was deleted before trial. Kuraev deleted all his blog posts from 23 February to 1 August. The Archdeacon announced that he will pay the fine.
Hegumen ARSENY (SOKOLOV), Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow)
Hegumen Arseny (Sokolov), a well-known biblical scholar, and a representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, signed an open appeal of the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church against the war; his signature under the appeal was the first. On 28 March, he launched a Telegram channel where he wrote: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Woe to those who call a fratricidal war a peacekeeping operation!” He also wrote that, in his opinion, «prayer ‘for the glory of Russia’ or any other country (and not for the glory of God) is simply idolatry.» On 29 March, he was forced to delete his earlier channel entries; he noted that “The Motherland is being driven into a camp. So far, this is ‘just’ a colony settlement. But it seems that a general regime will be introduced soon, followed by a strict regime, and so on. Who will we, the pastors of the Church, be in this camp? Prisoners or guards?» This message was also deleted; instead, a quote from the prophet Amos about the need for silence appeared and soon after the channel became unavailable.
On 27 May was dismissed from the post of the representative of the Moscow Patriarch to the Patriarch of Antioch.
Сommenting on the request of the church authorities to offer a special prayer for Vladimir Putin in honour of his birthday, Sokolov wrote on his Facebook page on 6 October 2022: “One should not pray for Tsar Herod.”
On 1 November 2022, Vakhtang Kipshidze, Deputy Head of the Synodal Department for Relations of the Church with Society and the Media, in an interview with the RTVI channel, accused the clergy who signed the appeal of the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church against the war of trying to “introduce into the Church territory the conflict that the Church has no relations with«. Kipshidze recalled that the European Parliament referred to the appeal in a special resolution on Russia and the Federal President of Germany Walter Steinmeier – at the general assembly of the WCC in Karlsruhe. He described the appeal as opposition activity, a manifestation of disloyalty to the state and assistance to unfriendly Western forces: «Magically, this began to be used by those political forces that, as we have all seen in recent months, do not wish any good to our country, our people.»
On 10 November 2022, the priest announced the release of his translation of the Book of the Prophet Micah with his own commentaries. This book is known for the anti-militarist statement: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Micah 4, 3). On 11 November 2022, it became known that Hegumen Arseny (Sokolov) was dismissed from the General Church Postgraduate and Doctoral School where used to be head of the Department of Biblical Studies.
Deacon SERGEY SHCHERBYUK, Russian Orthodox Church (Samara Oblast, Russia)
Deacon of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin parish in the Samara region. The Baza Telegram channel reported that in early April, the deacon was fined 30,000 rubles under the article on discrediting the Russian army in critical statements to parishioners and other ministers about Russia’s war against Ukraine. Shcherbyuk did not know for which specific incidents he was subjected to administrative punishment. It is likely that the parishioners themselves denounced the deacon. He recalled two cases which migh have attracted the attention of the police. One of them was a conversation with a parishioner on the way from church, in which he said that “everything can be solved without fighting«. In another incident, Shcheryuk asked the person editing the parish page in the VK social network to amend the call for «prayer for the soldiers fighting with Nazis and Banderites [- a Russian propaganda name for Ukrainians]» leaving only the words about praying. The page editor did not like the request and insisted that parishioners themselves wanted the call to be published.
Very Rev. VITALIJUS MOCKUS, Rev. VITALIS DAUPARAS, Rev. GINTARAS SUNGAILA, Rev. GEORGY ANANIEV, Very Rev. VLADIMIR SELIAVKO, Deacon GEORGY TSEBUREVKIN, Orthodox Church of Lithuania (Lithuania)
At the beginning of March 2022, Very Rev. Vitalius Mockus, then Chancellor of the Orthodox Church of Lithuania, as well as Rev. Vitalis Dauparas and Rev. Gintaras Sungaila criticized in the media and on social networks the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill for his sermons which justified Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
On 17 March, an Eparchial meeting took place in Vilnius. At the meeting, Metropolitan Innokentiy asked all those present what to do next regarding the war.
Mockus, Dauparas, and Sungaila proposed to suspend the commemoration of Patriarch Cyril, while Rev. Ananiev called on the Metropolitan to consider a possible change in the eparchy’s jurisdiction.
All proposals were rejected and the priests were reprimanded for their social networks activities. Rev. Sungaila and Rev. Dauparas requested resignations from minisrty for reasons of consciencious objections.
Consequently, Metropolitan Innokentiy issued a strong-worded, first since the beginning of the war, appeal: “The position of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania is unchanged: we strongly condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine and pray to God for its speedy end. As you may have already noticed, Patriarch Kirill and I have different political views and takes on current events. His political statements about the war in Ukraine are his personal opinion. We in Lithuania do not agree with that.”
The next week, the Metropolitan summoned Rev. Sungaila and Rev. Dauparas and informed that he did not accept their resignations from ministry and suggested that they would continue without commemorating the Patriarch in St Paraskeva Pyatnitskaya church; the priests accepted it and continued their ministry.
Unexpectedly, on the same day of 14 April, Very Rev. Vitalius Mockus was dismissed from the posts of Chancellor of the Orthodox Church of Lithuania, the rector at the Cathedral of the Theotokos and the Dean of the Vilnius deanery; while Rev. Gintaras Sungaila and Rev. Vitalis Dauparas were dismissed from ministry, and campaign to discredit the priests began. On 23 April, on the eve of Easter, the Metropolitan’s letter about the mentioned priests’ “knife in the back” was posted on the doors of all churches. Also, the collection of signatures under the petition “on maintaining the unity of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church” was organised; after 3 months of intensive collection in all parishes, the signatures were handed over to the President of Lithuania, Gintaras Nausėda, on 8 July.
On the feast of the Vilna Martyrs, which was specially moved from 27 April to Saturday of Bright Week on 29 April, a procession was held against the mentioned above priests. Several hundred people were brought by bus from all over Lithuania. After the Liturgy, a “procession of the cross for the unity of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania and for peace in Ukraine” was arranged; at the end, a prayer service was held and many years were offered to Patriarch Kirill, while the mentioned priests were called by name in a special litany as those who fell into schism.
On 10 May, five priests — Vitalius Mockus, Vitalis Dauparas, Gintras Sungaila, Georgy Ananiev, and Vladimir Seliavko — were dismissed from ministry; deacon Georgy Tseburevkin’s request for dismissal made in solidarity with the above-mentioned priests was satisfied. On 23 June, Gintaras Sungaila was defrocked; on 29 June Vitalius Mockus, Vitalis Dauparas, Georgy Ananyev, and Vladimir Seliavko were also defrocked.
Rev. MAKSIM NAGIBIN, Russian Orthodox Church (Krasnodar Krai)
Rector of the Archangel Michael church (Metropolis of the Kuban, Eparchy of Armavir) in the village of Nadezhnaya, Otradnensky District, Krasnodar Krai. In the Easter 2022 sermon, he said: “I may become an outcast in the Russian Federation and some present here may disagree with my words, but this is my conviction, it will remain with me. I do not impose this opinion on anyone, and God sees that until now I have not spoken these words from the pulpit. I consider the war against Ukraine a crime and a great shame that has made our country an outcast on the world stage, which they do not want to reckon with and do not trust the words of our rulers.” He posted a video of this sermon on the Odnoklassniki social network. At the end of August, a denunciation was written against him and a protocol was drawn up. The Otradnensky district court began to consider an administrative case against the priest but had to return it to the Ministry of Internal Affairs office citing the fact that the report did not contain «who posted this video and on which page», the Kavkaz.Realii reported. On 25 October, the same website reported that since the term for bringing to justice had expired in July, the Otradnensky district court had dismissed the case against Rev. Nagibin. During the consideration of the protocol, the court enquired whether the priest served in the army, whether he had been abroad and whether he had relatives in Ukraine.
Rev. SERGEY TITKOV, Russian Orthodox Church (Ryazan, Russia)
At the end of March 2022, Rev. Sergey Titkov, rector of the Protection of the Holy Veil parish in Ryazan, requested to be relieved of his post for health reasons after repeated warnings from the Ryazan diocese. Its representatives demanded explanations why Titkov regularly reposted from the Akhilla website, which “publicises hatred for the Russian Orthodox Church” and criticizes the war. The priest was also condemned for refusing to read the Prayer for the Restoration of the Peace in his church. On 30 March, the eparchy published a decree dismissing Rev. Titkov from ministry.
Very Rev. ANDREY KORDOCHKIN, Russian Orthodox Church (Madrid, Spain)
Very Rev. Andrey Kordochkin — Doctor of Theology, Secretary of the Eparchy of Madrid, Rector of the St Mary Magdalene parish in Madrid — signed an open appeal of the priests of the Russian Orthodox Church against the war; his signature under the appeal was among the first. He gave an extensive interview to DW, in which he explained the reasons for signing the appeal and shared his critical opinion about the ongoing events related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a sermon on Maundy Thursday, he compared Russia’s declared love for Ukraine to the kiss of Judas. On 17 July, Metropolitan Leonid of Klin posted threats on his Telegram channel addressed to Kordochkin: “At this stage, Russia is fighting for its right to live and build the future. Those who do not agree with the construction model may remain outside its borders — it’s a free time, no one is holding anyone. However, we won’t let you screw up either«.
ALEXANDER IVANOV, Russian Orthodox Church (Kaluga, Russia)
A programmer and creator of the Christian online encyclopedia Drevo. On 25 February, a banner ‘No to war!’ appeared on the Drevo website; it was hyperlinked to the editors’ statement signed by Ivanov which criticized Russian aggression against Ukraine and the silence of the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy. An unknown woman sent a denunciation the Moscow Center for Combating Extremism and Terrorism with a request to ‘take action’. The woman complained that “a provocative anti-patriotic slogan was placed in the header of the website”; after clicking on it “you get to an even more outrageous article”. She characterised the text of the statement as «deceitful, insulting towards the Church representatives«. The denunciation was sent to Kaluga, and Ivanov was summoned to give explanations. A protocol was drawn up against him under article 20.3.3 (discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation. The court fined Ivanov 45,000 Russian rubles.
GRIGORY SHEYANOV (Moscow, Russia)
On 21 September 2022, the day of the announcement of mobilization in Russia, an Orthodox publicist and paediatrician, Grigory Sheyanov, performed a one-person picket in Moscow. He stood with a piece of paper with a quote from the appeal of Metropolitan Philip of Moscow to the tyrant Ivan the Terrible: «… and behind the altar, innocent Christian blood is shed.» He was detained and taken to the Kitay-Gorod police department, where a protocol was drawn up under part 1 of art. 20.3.3 (discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation). The trial is announced for 30 September. The trial was scheduled for 30 September. On his Facebook, Sheyanov described the proceedings. He was given the maximum fine under part 1 of art. 20.3.3, 50 basic units.
VITALY GORIACHIKH, Russian Orthodox Church (Chita, Russia)
Vitaly Goryachikh, an activist and Orthodox believer from Chita, went out on a solo picket on 28 July 2022, with a banner “I will not fear evil” (Ps 22:4). He explained in an interview with Sibir.Realii that the choice of this phrase related to his faith: «I am a believer, I did not select this quote by chance. It is from a psalm of David. As a child, I read the Bible; at a mature age, I reread the Old Testament … Using this phrase I demonstrate that I am not afraid and urge others not to be afraid either.» The two-hour picket ended with the police detaining Goryachikh. He was accused of «discrediting» the Russian army. A trial took place on 18 August 2022. The believer was fined 30,000 Russian rubles. rubles. According to the judge, the poster constituted an offence of discrediting the Russian army: “If there is a letter Z, then we are talking about the Russian army. This is a symbol in support of the Russian Armed Forces.” On 12 September, an appeal was filed against the court’s decision to the Trans-Baikal regional court, but it was not satisfied.
Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (of Agathangelos)
Hieromonk IOANN (KURMOYAROV), ROCOR(A) (St Petersburg)
Hieromonk Ioann Kurmoyarov was defrocked in the Russian Orthodox Church in 2021 for criticizing the militaristic design of the flagman church of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the appearance of which, according to Kurmoyarov, offends the feelings of believers. In March 2022, he posted on social media a video Who Will Be in Hell And Who Will Be in Heaven?, which linguistic expertise found to contain content discrediting the Russian army. On 7 June, the priest was searched in connection with an open criminal case under the article on fakes against the Russian army. He was detained, and gadgets, two icons, a wooden cross and a cassock were confiscated. He was placed under arrest but his lawyer, Leonid Krikun, could not find him. The priest was only found in the Kresty pre-trial detention centre in St Petersburg on 14 June. A criminal case was initiated under art. 270.3 part 2 (fakes about the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
In July, the Norwegian human rights centre Forum 18 published an article about the priest. On 27 July, the Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial human rights project recognized him as a political prisoner. On 12 August, a large publication about Hieromonk Ioann was produced by the Sota project. On 29 August, the Kalininsky district court of St Petersburg extended Kurmoyarov’s arrest until 1 October, although he admitted his guilt and asked to change his preventive measure. On 12 September, the arrest was extended until 8 February 2023.
On 10 October 2022, Hieromonk Kurmoyarov was charged with spreading fake stories about the Russian army — a total of 63 episodes. Kurmoyarov is accused of posting on his YouTube channel, Orthodox Virtual Parish, several videos where he talks about Russia’s war against Ukraine, as well as posts on the VK social network calling for anti-war protests and in the advertising series Wakizashi on the animated film Masyanya channel on YouTube. Kurmoyarov pleaded guilty in the criminal case. Following that, his lawyer Leonid Krikun refused to defend the priest in court because he believes that Kurmoyarov is slandering himself. The interests of Kurmoyarov in court will be represented by Luiza Magomedova; the line of defence will be based on searching for extenuating circumstances.
Human rights activists started a Telegram channel dedicated to Kurmoyarov’s case.
Letters by post or the FSIN-pismo service should be sent to:
Kurmoyarov Ioann Valeryevich, 1968 (SIZO-1)
196655 Kolpino, Kolpinskaya st., 9
Hieromonk NIKANDR (PINCHUK), ROCOR(A) (Verkhoturye, Sverdlovsk Oblast)
On 30 March, the rector of the St Simeon of Verkhoturye parish published a post on the VK social network, which the linguistic assessment deemed to be violating the law on discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. In this post, Hieromonk Nikandr characterised the actions of the Russian army as annexationist, which contradicted the position of the Ministry of Defense. The hieromonk has deleted the post and hist page on VK.
On 14 March, the Verkhoturye district court fined the priest 35,000 Russian rubles under art. 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Based on screenshots of his social media, a criminal case was initiated against him under part 1 of art. 280.3 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on 29 June; the priest faces imprisonment for up to six months. While studying the materials of the criminal case, hieromonk Nikandr noticed that complaints against him were made by the eparchial department of the Yekaterinburg eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and the local Verkhoturye monastery.
The priest referred to the war in Ukraine as a ‘mortal sin‘ and ‘crime‘. He professed his innocence: «I am a priest and I have the right to condemn evil, regardless of who commits it, and the political situation.»
On July 1, his house was searched and he was detained for questioning by the Investigative Committee on 1 July. On 17 October 2022, a trial took place in regard to the repeated discrediting of the army (article 280.3 of the Criminal Code). The priest was fined 100,000 Russian rubles. He was charged with posting an already deleted social media post on 30 March, where the cleric wrote about the war of conquest waged by Russia, as well as about demons in power.
Monk ILARION (SHATKOVSKY), ROCOR(A) (village Khokhlovo, Belgorod oblast, Russia)
Monk Ilarion (in the world — Nikolai Shatkovsky), 58 years old, lives in the village of Khokhlovo (Belgorod oblast). He published anti-war statements on social media. In a video, he said that he did not believe the propaganda that calls the West evil. From 15 October 2022, contact with him was lost and he did not appear in social messengers. His neighbour said that he saw how the security forces took the monk away from his house. Ten days later, human rights activists from OVD-Info found the monk in the police. On 26 October, Shatkovsky was transferred from the police department in Valuyki to the oblast department of the FSB. He was provided with a state lawyer for his defence. A case was initiated against him under article 205.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Public calls for terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism). He was moved to the pre-trial detention centre no. 3 in Belgorod.
SERGEY STEPANOV, Baptist (Tambov)
Sergei Stepanov, a journalist and Christian missionary, made the following post on his VK page: “Dear compatriots: our army is conducting full-scale military operations in another country, it is dropping bombs and rockets on the cities of our neighbouring Ukraine. We call on the authorities of our country to stop this senseless bloodshed.” After the Russian Federation legislation introducing responsibility for discrediting the Russian army and the actions of state institutions abroad came into power, Stepanov deleted his VK page. However, the Oktyabrsky district court of Tambov fined him 40,000 Russian rubles for discrediting the army. A linguistic examination was conducted by Shcherbak Antonina Semyonovna, a professor at Tambov State University, in March 2022.
NINA BELYAEVA, Baptist (Voronezh, Russia)
The believer and councillor of the Semiluki District Council of the Voronezh Region condemned the Russian aggression against Ukraine on her social media. On 22 March, an argument broke out at a meeting of the district council: the councillors started discussing Belyaeva’s position; she published this debate on her Telegram channel. In her speech, she noted that “the killing of people on the territory of another state that has no aim of defending one’s own country has nothing to do with the Christian faith… What is happening today cannot be compared with following Christ. A Christian is not one who wears a cross on their neck. A Christian is one who follows Christ. For whom the Word of God, the authority of Christ is much higher than the authority of the President than the opinion of the Patriarch”. In an interview with the Moscow Times on 8 April, she said that she could not stay silent, otherwise she would not be able to «feel like a Christian and human being». Due to persecution, Belyaeva left Russia in April and currently lives in Latvia.
According to the Norwegian human rights organization Forum 18, on 29 April the Investigative Committee of the Voronezh Oblast declared Belyaeva a suspect under the newly introduced article 207.3 (public dissemination of knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) of the Criminal Code; she was charged on 23 June and put on the wanted list. The investigation of the criminal case continued in cooperation with the Voronezh FSB. On 22 June, a ‘red notice’ was filed to Interpol to search for Belyaeva; on 24 June, the Leninsky district court issued a warrant for the arrest of the believer for a period of two months. On 27 June, the Investigative Committee of the Voronezh Oblast announced on its website that Belyaeva had also been charged twice with committing a crime under part 2 of article 205.2 (public calls for terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism) of the Criminal Code committed “with using the mass media or electronic or information and telecommunication networks, including the internet” because of her interview with an unnamed foreign blogger. 20 out of 23 councillors of the Semiluki District council voted for withdrawing Belyaeva’s councillor immunity. Since 3 August, the councillor has been on the list of terrorists and extremists of Rosfinmonitoring.
Nina Belyaeva also joined the appeal of other municipal councillors demanding Putin’s resignation.
Roman Catholic Church in Russia
GALINA BORISOVA, Catholic Church (Moscow, Russia)
Before the Mass, on 3 July 2022, retired actress Galina Borisova, a parishioner of the Moscow Roman Catholic church of St Louis, attached an anti-war leaflet to the Russian flag hanging in the altar. It contained «No bellum» (No war) written in Latin and «The flag of the aggressor country has no place next to the flag of the Holy See» — in Russian. According to Borisova, the leaflet hung for about five minutes and only one nun saw it. Sr Magdalina Filatova claimed that about fifty parishioners saw it, and she herself tore off the leaflet and threw it away. The church is located opposite the FSB HQ in Lubyanka.
On 20 July, the police arrived at Borisova’s home. She was taken to the police department of the Krasnoselsky district where a protocol was drawn up against her under part 1 of article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses. The leaflet was interpreted as a «public action» «aimed at discrediting the use of the armed forces […] for protection of the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens.» The torn-up and glued-back-together leaflet was attached to the case file as material evidence. The OVD-Info Telegram channel reported that presumably Borisova was denounced by St Louis’ rector, Fr Vyacheslav Gorokhov, which resulted in the police report. However, Borisova denied this; she argued that the priest was forced to write a statement against her after she was identified from CCTV recordings, and the rector tried to annul his denunciation.
The Norwegian human rights organization, Forum-18, reported on 1 August that the case against Borisova was registered in the Meshchansky district court of Moscow.
MARIA KASYANENKO, Catholic Church (St. Petersburg, Russia)
On 21 September 2022, the day of the announcement of mobilization in Russia, Maria Kasyanenko took part in an anti-war protest. She urged believers who cannot come to the protest to support its participants with prayer. For participation in the protest, Kasyanenko was arrested for 10 days.
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