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Reports are streaming out of Ukraine of increased attacks against Christians from militants of the pro-Russian separatist movement, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Targeting Catholic priests especially, the attacks range from forbidding worship services and destroying church buildings, to tampering with the brakes on a priest’s car to kill him in a road accident, to arbitrary detentions and abductions. The separatists violently seek to establish a state in which Orthodox Christianity alone remains; all other faiths, including Catholic and Protestant Christians, are considered enemies and to be eliminated without mercy.

By Wade Kusack

8/12/2014 Ukraine (Russian Ministries) – July 3 DPR terrorists in Donetsk abducted Father Tikhon (Sergey) Kulbaka of the Greek Catholic Church. Previous to this, he repeatedly received threats, including an incident where slurs and fascist symbols were painted on his car.

Not until July 14 was the priest released by the militants, suffering health issues from maltreatment.

July 3 The Primate of the UOC KP, Patriach Filaret (Denysenko) announced that in Lugansk Region “there are literally NO worship services being conducted, because the separatists won’t allow it.”

He also said that armed men threatened to shoot the Bishop of the Lugansk and Starobelsk UOC KP, Afanasy (Yavorsky). However, later the militants forced the Bishop out of Lugansk Region after tampering with the brakes on his car – an evident attempt to instigate his death in a road accident.

On July 8, terrorists in Donetsk abducted Yury Ivanov, a UOC priest of the Kiev Patriarchate.

“Earlier on the separatists went to see this priests and demanded that he call Archbishop Sergey (Gorobtsov) of the Dontesk UOC KP with an urgent appeal for help – clearly the intention was to lure him into captivity,” said UOC KP Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya).

On July 30, after three weeks of captivity, the priest was released and taken to a safe place.

On July 9, armed militants seized the territory of Donetsk Christian University and issued an order: in connection with the military situation, the DCU was being transfered into the hands of the DPR armed forces together with all the property, equipment, and anything else, and those who failed to submit to this faced the threat of a court-martial.

This report came from Mikhail Cherenkov, the ex-rector of the DCU. He added that the residents of the dormitories and the university staff were driven out, but the next day they were allowed to take with them computers, documents, and personal items.

“Currently, armed men are housed in the DCU dormitories. The gates have been barricaded, there are checkpoints all around, prisoners are being held on the premises, along with a lot of equipment and arms for the fighters,” said Oleg Shtein, the DCU Vice Rector for Administrative Affairs, in comments made on August 8 to IRS.

On July 15, militants detained the Catholic priest Viktor Vonsovich, rector of the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in Gorlovka, Donetsk, the Donetsk dean of the Roman Catholic Church. He was held in an occupied building of the security service until his release from captivity on July 25. The militants threatened the priest: if he returned to Gorlovka, they would shoot him.

“Right now they are targeting Catholic priests,” said RCC Bishop Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk, Ordinary of the Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia. In his words, there are a lot of provocations against the civilian population, and the clergy is doing everything it can to save people.

On July 27, artillery fire destroyed the house of worship of the Adventist Church in Debalcevo, Donetsk. According to the website for the Church,”right in front of the church building was where the volunteers of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic were deployed. They entrenched themselves in the bushes with their guns, a Grad rocket launcher right there and mortar-guns, and they commenced shooting. The militias used the tactic of salvo firing from one place, and then quickly moving on to another part of the city and carrying on with the gunfire there.”

On July 27, Pastor Alexander Kobzev of the Church of Christ was abducted. Donetsk Mufti Said Ismailov reported the abduction. To this day, the location of the pastor remains unknown.

What is evident from all this is that the pro-Russian terrorists are deliberately waging battle against what they regard as undesirable sacred/church communities in the territories under their control in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

It will be recalled that in May 2014, representatives of the self-proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk” declared in their own “constitution” that in the territories they have seized “the original, dominant faith is the Orthodox faith … professed by the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).”

As reported by IRF, the Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine has called upon the international community, including the monitoring missions of the UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union to make efforts to prevent the continuation and escalation of religious intolerance in the territories of Eastern Ukraine controlled by armed separatists.

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