Eastern Ukraine and Crimea: summary


The persecution of religious groups has begun in Crimea and in the territory of Eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian separatists.  The main engines of persecution are Religious Militancy and Ecclesiastical Arrogance (which is different from the other territories of the former Soviet Union, where Totalitarian Paranoia and Islamic Extremism are the main engines). 

We identified the following drivers of persecution: 
- Religious leaders of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate
- Fanatical movements, such as the Russian Orthodox Army
- Pro-Russian separatists (revolutionary groups)

In the period from April to September 2014, we observed hundreds of abductions of believers in territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.  The primary motive for the abductions has been the membership of the victims in a Christian denomination other than the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. All the believers that we interviewed who had been held hostage asserted that they had been subjected to torture solely on religious grounds.  Some of those abducted were released (very often in return for a ransom), but all who had been held captive suffered various degrees of injury.  It has been established that all were subjected to beatings, and many also came back with stab wounds, broken bones, dislocated joints, and burns from being tortured with electric shocks.

Over the same period, we uncovered four deliberate killings, on religious grounds, of Evangelical ministers. This took place in Slovyansk. Dozens of believers are listed as missing, and to this day their fates are unknown.

In addition, in the past six months, we've been informed about the takeover and/or destruction of 54 church buildings of various Christian denominations. The arson of churches has been documented in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Large buildings belonging to Protestant churches and schools have been confiscated and used by the pro-Russian separatists as barracks, warehouses or weapons emplacements. Some buildings have been singled out and transferred to the Orthodox clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate. For example, on July 9, armed militants seized the territory of Donetsk Christian University, and on Wednesday, August 13, members of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR or DNR) took over the worship hall of the Word of Life Church.

In the occupied territory of Eastern Ukraine, about a hundred churches, Christian missions, orphanages, rehabilitation centers, educational institutions, research centers and charities have been closed. Today, tens of thousands of believers in eastern Ukraine and Crimea live in fear of being kidnapped, tortured and killed. And in Mariupol, Republic Pilgrim, one the most well-known centers for orphans, has been evacuated due to the continuous threat of a Russian invasion. 




On Saturday, September 27, in Gorlovka (Horlivka) Ukraine, located in the Donetsk Region, currently controlled by the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk (DNR), militants in camouflage brandishing machine guns burst into the house of worship of the Seventh Day Adventists, where the sacrament of Holy Communion was being conducted. They ordered Pastor Sergey Litovchenko to shut down the church, forced him into a car, and drove away in an unknown direction.

The attackers justified their actions by saying that "this is an Orthodox land and there is no place for sects." When the believers asked them who they were, what gave them the right to carry out these actions, and asked them to produce documents, the armed men rudely replied that "this is none of your business.”

The leadership of the East Mission is doing what it can to find out the whereabouts of the abducted pastor. 

The Seventh Day Adventist Church in Ukraine is an officially registered Protestant church, and operates the charity project Eastern Angel, which assists people affected by armed conflict in the east of the country. Believers collect food, clothing, essential goods, and carry out the reconstruction of housing that has been damaged or destroyed in the fighting.





Naghmeh Abedini, Pastor Saeed’s wife, invites you to join her in remembering Pastor Saeed Abedini and others who are persecuted for their faith by participating in prayer vigils across the world on September 26, 2014, the anniversary of Saeed’s imprisonment.

Pastor Saeed previously expressed in his letter that nothing has encouraged him more than knowing “that in my chains the body of Christ has chained together” in prayer. Join others in praying for Pastor Saeed and the persecuted church.

Find a prayer vigil near you in the list below.

US locations: click here


Klaipeda, Lithuania
LCC International University
7-8:30 PM


Udomlya, Russia
Udomlya Baptist Church (Udomlja, MjUda street, 11) 7 PM
г. Сатка, Челябинская обл.
г. Сатка, омц "Возрождение", Сатка. ул. Надпрудная 8а / CMC "Revival" Satka. Str. Nadprudnaya 8a 7 вечера


Kiev, Ukraine:
- Church Transfiguration (Преображение), Ukraine / Kyyivska / Knyazhychi / Киев / ул. Архитектора Вербицкого, 30б, 26 сентября, 7pm (7 вечера)
- Kind Pier Church (Церковь Добрая Пристань) 02068 г. Киев, ул. Хорольская, 30 7pm (7 вечера)
- Christmas Church, Киев, ул. Кобзарская 10,  26 сентября, 7pm (7 вечера) 

Odessa, Ukraine:
- Love of Christ Church, Odessa, ул Новосельского 68, 25 сентября 7 вечера

Rivne, Ukraine:
- The House of Gospel Church, Rivne, ул.Черняка, 9, г.Ровно, Ровенская обл. 26 сентября, 7pm (7 вечера)


Wade Kusack Presents Religious Freedom Award to Congressman Trent Franks

Left to Right, Russian Ministries' Wade Kusack, Congressman Trent Franks, and Greg Mitchell of the Mitchell Firm.On September 19, 2014 Wade Kusack participated in the Third Annual International Religious Freedom (IRF) Roundtable Event on Capitol Hill. Our organization was one of the co-conveners of the event, along with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (UK), the Institute for Global Engagement, International Christian Concern, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 
The program included panel discussions on the State of Religious Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, Emerging European Union Approaches to IRF Issues, and  American Government and Civil Society Actions in Response.  The program also included the presentation of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable's awards for active promotion of religious freedom worldwide to Congressmen Trent Franks and Frank Wolf as well as to Catherine Lantos, head of the Lantos Committee on Human Rights. 
Russian Ministries had the honor of presenting the award to Congressman Trent Franks. Representative Franks, co-chair of the Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus, spoke at Russian Ministries' Congressional Briefing on Religious Freedom in Eurasia in February 2014 on Capitol Hill. Russian Ministries is grateful to have partners in Washington like Congressman Franks who deeply care about the issue of religious freedom and fight to protect the right to freedom of conscience both in the former Soviet Union and worldwide.



Church seized in Shakhtersk, Ukraine and pastor robbed, threatened, and beaten 

The evening of June 21, 2014 eight people broke into the building of Word of Life Church in Shakhtersk, in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine. They were masked and dressed in camouflage and carried weapons. They did not introduce themselves, but announced their goal from the doorstep: “Leave the building. Bring the keys within 24 hours to our people in the administration.”

The church members offered no resistance, and turned in the keys to representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Shakhtersk City Administration as ordered. When armed representatives of the DPR came to Word of Life Church the next day, Pastor Nikolai Kalinichenko was in the church building, and they seized him and made him enter a vehicle.

In the car they beat and threatened the elderly pastor. The armed men repeatedly stated that “there should be no one here other than Muslims and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.“ They repeatedly called him a member of a sect and told him to go back to the “Bandera” [radical right wing] headquarters. 

Upon learning Pastor Kalinichenko’s home address, they decided to go to his home. The pastor’s wife had information that they might be visited by the separatists, therefore their son-in-law was with her and he spoke to the terrorists over the intercom when they rang the doorbell on the ground floor of the apartment building. They were surprised to hear a male voice and became enraged, because Nikolai had told them that his wife would be home alone. The son-in-law managed to slip out of the apartment mere seconds before the armed group arrived. When they entered the apartment they began tearing it apart in search of him.

The separatists were also in search of money and weapons. In the end the only things they took were computers. They then forced the pastor to reenter the vehicle with them and drove on. Next, the kidnappers demanded the pastor’s personal car. When they got to the parking lot where the car was parked and picked up the car, they finally released Nikolai. Beaten but alive, he made it home and the very next day Pastor Kalinichenko, his wife, and their daughter and son-in-law left the Donetsk Region. Leaving saved his life, because the next day, June 23rd, the pastor’s apartment was completely destroyed. Intruders fired weapons in all directions, leaving everything in ruins. The pastor learned this from a neighbor.

That same day, June 23rd, two flags appeared outside of Word of Life church in Shakhtersk – one from the Donetsk People’s Republic and one from the Russian Orthodox Church. All church property, including computers and paperwork, were confiscated and the church became a separatist headquarters.

Inga Che, for Russian Ministries

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