During the full-scale invasion, Russian troops have damaged or wholly destroyed at least 630 churches, prayer houses, and other religious facilities in Ukraine.

The Institute for Religious Freedom published this new data in the report “The Impact of the Russian Invasion on Faith-Based Communities in Ukraine.” The IRF research contains the results of monitoring and surveys on the situation of Ukrainian religious communities in the territories occupied by Russia.

The report in English

The summary of the report in English

The report in Ukrainian

In addition, IRF recorded seventeen interviews with religious leaders of various denominations about Russian war crimes in Ukraine. These video testimonies are available for watching on YouTube with English subtitles.

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The Kremlin uses religion, particularly Russian religious centers, as a tool of war against Ukraine. In addition to propagating hatred of Ukrainians, the Russian authorities in the occupied territories of Ukraine often practice arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, torture, and even murder of Ukrainian religious leaders. Those priests, pastors, imams, etc., who did not agree to collaborate and refused to submit to Russian religious centers are subject to repression.

The IRF report states that most damage was inflicted by Russian missiles, kamikaze drones, and artillery, including targeted attacks on civilian objects. In addition, some places of worship have been deliberately looted by the Russian military, closed, or converted by the occupying authorities into administrative buildings.

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Most churches, prayer houses, synagogues, and mosques were destroyed in Donetsk region (at least 146), Luhansk region (at least 83), and Kherson region (at least 78). The destruction in Kyiv region, where Russian troops attempted to capture the capital of Ukraine in February-March 2022, was also enormous (73). Due to the ongoing hostilities, the number of destroyed buildings is increasing in Kharkiv region (at least 62), Zaporizhzhia region (at least 51), and Mykolaiv region (at least 41).

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Infographics: IRF Ukraine / irf.in.ua  

On a confessional basis, Orthodox churches suffered most damage from the Russian aggression – at least 246 in total. Of these, the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate) suffered the most – at least 187. Also, 59 churches of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine were destroyed or damaged.

The scale of destruction and looting of evangelical churches is also extensive – at least 206 in total. Among them, the Pentecostal (94), Baptist (60), and Seventh-day Adventist Church (27) prayer houses suffered the most.

It is most likely that if Russia retains control over the occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions throughout 2024 and beyond, Ukrainian churches and religious communities in these regions will face the same fate as believers in the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions occupied since 2014. The Russian occupying authorities will continue to fight any manifestations of dissent, opposition, and Ukrainian identity, particularly religious identity, by enforcing repressive Russian legislation.

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Hiding behind slogans of protecting Russian speakers, “denazification,” and “desatanization” of Ukraine, the Kremlin has actually been implementing the ideology of the “Russkiy Mir” (Russian World). As interpreted by Russian propagandists, this ideology comprises the physical destruction of the Ukrainian people as a nation (genocide), the elimination of Ukrainian cultural heritage, the overthrow of the Ukrainian government, and the disappearance of the Ukrainian state.

Recommendations

The IRF formulated several recommendations in the report. Among them are the following:

To publicly condemn the Russian World ideology and the position of the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, as well as other Russian religious associations and leaders who participate in the Russian aggression and justify it or promote hatred and genocide of the people of Ukraine.

To strongly and proactively support Ukraine’s efforts to investigate Russian war crimes and prosecute all war criminals.

To introduce personal sanctions against Russian officials, religious leaders, media workers, and other individuals responsible for justifying or carrying out repressions against Ukrainian religious leaders and faith-based communities on the Ukrainian territories controlled by Russia.

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To designate the Russian Federation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, considering the constant attacks on the civilian population and critical infrastructure of Ukraine, deliberate exacerbation of the humanitarian crisis, nuclear blackmail, the use of torture, inhuman treatment of prisoners of war, and arbitrarily imprisoned civilians, particularly religious figures.

See the original report by HRWF here.

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Comments ( 1)

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John
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

I guess that's what putin's billionaire former KGB buddy Patriarch Kirill meant by this was a holy war. It's a war in which putin intends to destroy all holy institutes in Ukraine.

Of Ukraine's ~4500 churches, russian has so far been successful in destroying 630. Thats about 1 in 7 churches. How many churches in your community? Picture every 7th one turned to a pile of rubble by the ruble nation. Not a concern for the evangelical MGRA supporters. They'd rather worship congenitally lying, sex offender, fraudster, insurrectionist putinrump anyway....hate spewing false idol that he is...and a putin supporter to boot.

Since putin's regime stole Crimea, Ammesty International also reports it has systematically restricted freedom of assembly and expression of religion there. Mostly Muslim but also some Orthodox Christian.

Its odd that this does this not concern NATO member Turkey. Does Erdogen's friendship and placation of putin, trump the Turkish people's interest in their Crimean relatives having freedom to worship? As long as erdogen makes a buck from putin helping him circumvent sanctions its all okay with Turkish morality right? On a GDP % basis, Turkeys present aid to Ukraine approximates putin's BFF China. Turkey how are you enjoying the oppressed and economically floundering statehood your MRGA leader has built.

Anyone remember the good ole days pre MRGA cult?

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