34th Human Rights Council - Persecutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine

For the 34th session of the Human Rights Council, the CIPADH attended one of the side event organized by permanent missions, intergorvernmental organizations, specialized agencies, OHCHR and the department of public information. On Thursday 8th March, the Permanent Mission of Russia Federation and World Russian People's Council made a conference on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a victim of the Civil War during the conflict in 2014 and 2016.


Even though the speakers draft some factual elements of the civil war that occurs in Ukraine since 2013, the main goal is to point out that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was the target of persecutions during the crisis.

The beginning of the crisis has been trigged by the suspension by the Ukrainian government of the preparations of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. In response to this decision, the Euromaidan movement has been created to show the dissatisfaction with the suspension of the negotiations. Thousands of Euromaidan supporters joined and with the raise of violence during the confrontations, the movement gained a new purpose: fighting the endemic corruption that Yanukovych's government symbolized. This conflict turned into a civil war, with regular mass clashes between the activists and the police, dead people from both sides, the capture of the government quartier in Kiev and the crisis in Crimea. By February of 2014, the protests lead to the fall of the Yanukovych’s government due to "abuse of power", “government corruption", and "violation of human rights".

During this period of violent confrontations and daily protestations, various violations of human rights were perpetrated by the Euromaidan supporters, by the authorities and by the members of pro-government and non-state organization and armed groups. Those violations consist on attacks on civilians, attacks on members of sexual minorities, vandalism, incitement of ethnic and religious, restriction on freedom of the media, harassment of journalists and xenophobic crimes.

However, one crime is often forgotten: the persecution of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that was systematically attacked by the pro-Ukrainian activists. 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, who was the only religious institution involved in the conflict, has been persecuted because they were seen by the government as one of the most serious enemy and threat against the pro-Russian system. Indeed, on account of their support in the Euromaidan protestations and their clear opposition to the pro-Russian regime of Viktor Ianoukovitch and Putin, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church became a major target of harassment. They went through psychological pressure threat, abuse, and defamation. Some priests or Archpriests had been kidnapped, some religious ceremonies interrupted by armed people to threaten the rectors, clergyman were insulted, humiliated, beaten, accused to support terrorists and some churches were staged arson or vandalized.

Thus, the meeting was to point out the issue of violence in Ukraine on the Orthodox Churches during the Civil War and encourage international organizations and NGOs to understand the nature of this mass violation of human rights.


Charlotte Verrier, assistante de recherche au CIPADH