I am grateful to the Assembly for the significant attention that, in the Assembly's January resolution on Ukraine, was paid to the problems and challenges that arose in our country in the field of democracy and human rights – especially in recent years. The signal that Europe sees these issues and is aware of them is very important for ordinary Ukrainians.
Yet, the main problem is that the key addressee of the appeals contained in the resolution, i.e. the Ukrainian government, pretended not to notice this criticism at all.
Therefore, I think that the Assembly should even more clearly define its position on the negative political processes in Ukraine. It is very important to raise, as much as possible, the full range of problems with human rights and freedoms in Ukraine. A flagrant violation of the rights of the opposition and civil groupings, persecution of dissident and opposition media, persecution of the canonical Church – all this is an integral part of the Ukrainian political life today.
In this regard, I would like to draw special attention of the Assembly members to systematic, regular and large-scale violations of freedom of conscience and religion in Ukraine, as it is formulated in Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. And in particular, the freedom to exercise one's religion. I will cite only a few of the most egregious examples of violations of the Convention's provisions:
- To date, about 40 churches belonging to the religious communities of the UOC have been seized. Unfortunately, attempts to seize further churches do not stop.
- There have been attacks on priests and even murders which, unfortunately, have not been properly investigated.
- In a number of regions in Western Ukraine, state authorities have stopped registering the statutes of the religious communities of the UOC.
- The Security Service of Ukraine made searches in the premises of clergymen, journalists and lawyers who protect the churches of the UOC from seizures.
- The cases of the authorities’ interference into the life of religious communities have become more evident.
- Concerns have been caused by some draft laws that are clearly discriminatory in their nature, and also provide for interference in the activities of religious communities and contribute to the raider seizure of property of religious communities in Ukraine.
- I cannot but mention the fact that since 2014 the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine practically has not been registering the charters of religious organizations of the UOC. For 2015/16, only 3 out of 14 statutes were registered.
I hope these facts exhaustively characterize the state of affairs in the field of freedom of conscience in Ukraine. And believe me, this is only a small part of the systemic violations of human rights, which the Ukrainian opposition regularly draws the world's attention to. I hope that these facts will create conditions for an adequate assessment of the activities or inactivity of the Ukrainian authorities on the part of the Assembly.
I believe that a truly stable, democratic, European, tolerant and safe society will still be established in Ukraine through common efforts.
Thank you for your attention.