U.S. Department of State: Occupiers continue religious persecution in Crimea

Russian occupation authorities in Crimea continue religious persecution of Muslims, Greek Catholics, believers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as well as representatives of other denominations.

This is stated in the 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom released by the U.S. Department of State.

“Russian authorities in occupied Crimea continued to persecute and intimidate minority religious congregations, including Muslim Crimean Tatars, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) members and clergy,” reads the report with reference to religious activists, human rights groups, and media reports.

As of October 2020, 69 Crimean residents remained in prison in connection with their alleged involvement with the Muslim political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia but legal in Ukraine. In addition, two Jehovah’s Witnesses were serving prison sentences for their faith at year’s end.

“Russian occupation authorities continued to subject Muslim Crimean Tatars to imprisonment and detention, especially if authorities suspected the individuals of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir. In September, Russia’s Southern Area Military Court sentenced seven Crimean Muslim Tatar prisoners arrested in 2017 and 2018 to a maximum-security penal colony,” the report notes.

Moreover, representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and other denominations are being persecuted by the occupation authorities. Many religious communities were essentially driven out of the peninsula through registration requirements under newly imposed Russian laws. Only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate was exempt from these registration requirements.

“The Russian government reported there were 907 religious communities registered in Crimea, including in Sevastopol… representing a drop of more than 1,000 since the occupation began in 2014,” the document says.

As reported, the U.S. Department of State annually publishes the Report on International Religious Freedom, which is formed on the basis of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. The document describes in detail the state of religious freedom in almost 200 countries and territories.

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