News from Europe

Christian leaders ‘killed, tortured and disappeared’ in occupied Ukraine

Christian religious freedom charity Release International, draws attention to the dark reality of denominations, other than President Putin's Russian Orthodox, being regarded as extremists in occupied Ukraine.

59-year-old Ukrainian Orthodox priest Stepan Podolchak was found dead in Kalanchak, in Russian-occupied Kherson, in February. Upon discovery of his body, it became apparent that he had been tortured. Agents of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Centre for Countering Extremism detained and dragged him away two days before the disturbing discovery of his body. 

According to Forum 18 – a religious human rights activist group: “Russian occupation forces have also kidnapped, tortured, and killed other Ukrainian religious leaders since the Russian invasion.” Two other victims, Anatoly Prokopchuk, a Pentecostal deacon, and his 19-year-old son Aleksandr, were kidnapped, mutilated and shot in Kherson last November. A few others disappeared or had been deported to Russia, some after rejecting Russian citizenship.

Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International, stated: “Increasingly, denominations other than President Putin’s Russian Orthodox are being regarded as extremists. Despite all this, in the face of fear, insecurity and oppression, hunger for the gospel is growing. We hear reports of churches packed to overflowing and many giving their lives to Christ. People flock to the word of God and convert to Christ, in whom they find their only hope in the conflagration of war. While persecution is a terrible thing, we find that God is powerfully present to restore hope and meaning. Our partners are working in Ukraine to serve a Church which is being refined by fire – and where the gospel is preached, that Church is growing.”

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