AS WESTERN leaders discussed the situation in Ukraine at the G7,
the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that
its churches in the Crimean peninsula were being exposed to
"pressure, intimidation, and discrimination" from "chauvinistic and
anti-Christian forces" within the new Russian-led civil authorities
(News, Comment 7 March).
There are two Orthodox Churches in Ukraine: the Moscow
Patriarchate is the canonical Orthodox Church in the country, while
the Kiev Patriarchate claims autocephalous authority, but is not
recognised by other Orthodox Churches.
"Their anger is the fact that our church is the pillar for
believers in Christ, the majority of whom are ethnic Ukrainian,"
the Kiev Patriarchate's Archbishop Clement of Simferopol and Crimea
said. "Unfortunately, in today's Crimea, there is no respect for
God's truth, or freedom for the rights of believers and
He described the actions as "cynical and audacious . . .
persecution against the Church on the Crimean peninsula".
In one incident, earlier this month, the Archbishop said that a
group of armed Russian Cossacks broke into the Church of the Holy
Virgin, in the village of Perevalnoe, in the Crimea region,
destroying relics, shouting abuse, and attacking worshippers,
including a pregnant woman.
During the attack, "another group of armed thugs blocked the
rector's car and attacked him," Archbishop Clement said.
He accused the police of refusing to recognise that the attack
took place; and that this was indicative of wider, officially
sanctioned actions against the Church.
The State Council of Crimea had increased the rent on the Kiev
Patriarchate's cathedral in Simferopol by "600,000 times, at a time
when much of the economically active parishioners had recently left
the Crimea", the Archbishop said. Attempts to meet the Crimean
authorities to discuss the situation had been rebuffed.
"I consider these actions to be part of an undisguised desire by
the authorities to destroy the . . . Kiev Patriarchate of the
Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Crimea," he said.
He called on the government of Crimea and Russia "immediately to
stop all kinds of repression and discrimination against the Church
in the Crimea, to ensure the implementation of our legitimate
rights to freedom of religion".
G7 talks tough on Ukraine
LEADERS of the G7 kept up their rhetoric against Russia
last week, and threatened further sanctions unless the Russian
President, Vladimir Putin, takes action to bring stability to
The G8 had been due to meet in Sochi; but, after the
expulsion of Russia from the élite club of the world's leading
economies - described by the President of the EU Council, Herman
Van Rompuy, as a "temporary suspension" - a hastily arranged G7 met
instead at the EU Council's headquarters in Brussels.
After the meeting, the leaders of Canada, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the UK, together with
the Presidents of the European Commission and EU Council, issued a
communiqué condemning the "unacceptable interference in Ukraine's
sovereign affairs by the Russian Federation", and calling on the
"illegal armed groups to disarm".
"We are united in condemning the Russian Federation's
continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity
of Ukraine," they said. "Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, and
actions to destabilise Eastern Ukraine, are unacceptable and must
stop. These actions violate fundamental principles of international
The leaders called for the complete withdrawal of
Russian military forces from the border with Ukraine, and urged
Russia to "stop the flow of weapons and militants across the
border". They said that Russia should "exercise its influence among
armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce
They warned: "We stand ready to intensify targeted
sanctions, and to implement significant additional restrictive
measures to impose further costs on Russia, should events so
But the communiqué also had a positive tone, welcoming
the election last month of the new Ukrainian President, Petro
President Poroshenko had an informal meeting with
President Putin in Normandy on Friday; and on Saturday, the Russian
ambassador to Ukraine attended the presidential swearing-in
ceremony in a sign that Moscow accepts the results of the
Speaking at a joint press conference with his "great
friend and partner" David Cameron, the US President, Barack Obama,
said that President Putin had the "chance to get back into the lane
of international law", and said that the inauguration of President
Poroshenko was an "opportunity" that "Russia needs to
President Obama continued: "Like many Ukrainians
[Poroshenko] wants to forge closer ties with Europe and the United
States, but he also recognises that Russia will benefit from a
constructive relationship with Russia."
Mr Cameron echoed the message, saying: "From the outset
of this crisis, the G7 leaders have been united: clear in our
support for the Ukrainian people . . . and firm in our message to
President Putin that Russia's actions are completely