First – seizure, then – transfer: how raiders from OCU act

UOC community in Budiatichi forced to pray under the temple walls

It is not known among whom, when and why the meetings for the transfer of communities to the OCU are held in Volyn.

In the process of the formation of the new religious structure, the Volyn authorities turned out to be a kind of a high performer in an important and honorable matter – the registration of the OCU communities. As of July 3, 2019, 75 statutes of the communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church were re-registered in the region, and they even managed to register a new, legitimate community of the OCU in one of the villages of the Shatsk district.

The last order of the then head of the Volyn Regional State Administration Alexander Savchenko about re-registration was issued on June 7. After the presidential elections and the change in the leadership of the RSA, there are no fresh “religious” orders in sight. As regards the re-registrations issued by predecessors, some of them are already under legal investigation, not without a result.

Strange protocol

The UOC community in the village of Budiatichi of the Ivanichi district was forcibly re-registered on April 16, 2019. Despite the fact that the meeting of the religious community at the parish took place even earlier than that organized by supporters of the OCU, state institutions do not take into account the legal protocol with the twice as many “votes”. The authorities considered the protocol of the territorial meeting to be sufficient grounds for changing the statute of the Orthodox parish. It is quite common for our realities.

Believers who disagreed with such a fraud demanded documents used by the authorities, and the notorious lists of “meeting participants” were made available to the UOJ. People are outraged with the papers they have seen so much that they are ready to file a complaint no longer with the Ukrainian courts but with international human rights organizations and missions.

The "document" is quite questionable. If this is a meeting of a religious community, then why was not the parish activists and the rector present? If this is a meeting of the territorial community, why did the residents of the neighbouring village of Kosmovka also sign up? If we are talking about localities whose inhabitants go to the temple in Budiatichi, then why did they choose only these people? On what basis did the RSA decide that 174 people are 2/3 of the community, where is the total number indicated and how was two-thirds calculated? According to the data of 2001, more than 600 people live in Budiatichi and 99 – in Kosmovka. Finally, who entered a minor born in 2004 in the protocol? Why did some of the signatories indicate passport data while others didn’t?

UOC parishioners are outraged with the revealed fraud so much that they are ready to file a complaint no longer with the Ukrainian courts but with international human rights organizations and missions.

“The activists of the transfer to the OCU wrote down there all their relatives who were not registered in Budiatichi, and even more so they did not show up in our church,” explained representatives of the St. Nicholas community of the UOC. “They failed to collect as many signatures as we collected, even without taking into account other localities.”

When registering legal entities under normal conditions, documents are carefully checked for compliance with all requirements and do not accept such inconsistency in the protocols. There is no need to ask why the local authorities hurried up with registration in the last days of the actual leadership of the previous President.

At the moment, the UOC community in Budiatichi continues to defend the temple from attacks by representatives of the OCU, who consider it their own, although the re-registration is still being challenged in court — this time in the appellate court.

By pattern

The situation in Budiatichi aggravated after June 3, 2019, when the Volyn District Administrative Court closed the proceedings on the complaint of UOC believers. The court ruled that the consideration of this case does not fall within the powers of the administrative court but is the sphere of activity of the economic court.

Around this time, on May 11, 2019, a similar decision in the Volyn Regional Administrative Court was issued on the complaint of the UOC believers of Krasnovolia, Manevichi district, where the re-registration of the community of the canonical Church was held a month earlier than in Budiatichi, on March 18.

As it turned out, the decision on Budiatichi in the part of the text, where the arguments of the court are written, almost completely coincides with the earlier decision on Krasnovolia, slightly altered. Indeed, why reinvent the wheel?

Krasnovolia: great combinators

The text of the decision of the Volyn Regional Administrative Court on the claim of believers of the UOC in Krasnovolia, however, revealed information that brought even more intrigue to the proceedings on the raider seizure.

Krasnovolia became in Volyn a place of the first attack of activists of the OCU not yet registered at that moment on the UOC parish. The scandalous “meeting” at St. Michael’s Church was held before the New Year and the Tomos was granted on December 30, 2018. However, when re-registering the community, as the text of the court decision shows, the minutes of the meeting dated March 3, 2019, were taken into account.

During this period, the OCU activists seized the temple (January 13, 2019), appointed a new rector (January 16, 2019) and only on March 3 they officially held a meeting about the transition.

How come? Who and on what basis changed the lawful rector of the UOC for some stranger? How did Peter Luschinsky become a "pastor"? Why, according to the register, he has headed the parish since January 16? If a document for this was written out with the wording “to accept to the Volyn Eparchy of the OCU,” then things are even more surprising, since the Volyn Eparchy of the Kiev Patriarchate itself continues to exist in its pre-Tomos status, and where “Metropolitan” Mikhail Zinkevich sends other parishes is generally unclear.

All this did not prevent the OCU activists from seizing both the temple and the rector's house. Apparently, they do not bother to read documents that justify their actions. And this is in vain – in the statute documents, stolen from the UOC community, it is clearly stated that only the rector is authorized to convene a parish meeting.

Pettifoggery or logic?

The practice of studying the clashes for church property shows that aggressive raiders from the UOC KP and the OCU do not care at all whether their actions are legal or not. There are precedents when the UOC KP community in the village could freely register in the same church, at the same address where the UOC community is listed, and simply expel the legal owners from their property. There are no governing bodies for this since court decisions in Ukraine are rarely carried out.

There are quite a few precedents when the UOC community goes through the full trial cycle, wins it and still cannot enter its church.

Why did the leaving authorities choose such an absurd form of registration of OCU communities like the robbery of UOC parishes? Such protocols would not raise any questions if it were about creating new legal entities whose interests would not affect the boundaries of another religious community. But, apparently, in the creation of a new organization, we are not looking for easy ways.

The temple in Krasnovolia was seized on January 13, a new rector was appointed on January 16, and a meeting on the transfer of the community was held only on March 3.

Nevertheless, a pressing logical question should be voiced. If the OCU activists, who declare their desire to “transfer the parish” to the new structure, has already transferred to the OCU, changed their affiliation, what right do these people have at the meeting of the UOC community? In Ukraine, there is a freedom of worship, if a person has decided to move to another denomination, he/she is no longer a believer of the church he/she has gone to earlier. If, for example, all people left the UOC community in this way (such cases are few but there are some), the parish would be closed, and that's all.

Simple logic completely "nulls" the intentions of lawmakers who are trying to redraw another religious structure by "counting votes", which, as it turns out, can be carried out under unclear circumstances and, most importantly, why. After all, people leave the seized temples.

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