Russia and its proxy forces have engaged in a systematic campaign in the last year to abuse religious minorities in Ukraine, according to a new report and accounts that have garnered scant attention in the Western press. In its annual report on International Religious Freedom, released Wednesday, the Department of State said that conditions for religious minorities deteriorated in the parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists, as well as in the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea. Russia seized Crimea in March 2014, and Western nations have accused the Kremlin of backing the Ukrainian separatists in a conflict that has killed more than 8,000 people since last April.
“In the areas they control, the separatists have kidnapped, beaten, and threatened Protestants, Catholics, and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, as well as participated in anti-Semitic acts,” the report said. The separatists formed two “people’s republics” last April in Donetsk and Luhansk and declared in the constitution that the primary religion would be the “Christian Orthodox faith … practiced by the Russian Orthodox Church.” All other religions, including separate Christian denominations, appear to have been targeted. MORE