Inflaming mixture: Why one must not criticize OCU but may insult UOC

Oleg Slepynin and Ayder Muzhdabaev had different experience of “impartiality” of the Ukrainian security forces. Photo: UOJ

Ukrainian security officials continue to use the discriminatory policy and incite sectarian strife.

The Ukrainian state, which in the Constitution and statements of the leadership declares the equality of all citizens regardless of their religious beliefs, in fact, acts right the other way about – selectively. Two recent cases clearly show this.

Why do state bodies in our country conduct a policy of double standards and what can be done to eradicate this shameful phenomenon?

Not a word against Tomos!

On July 16, 2020, the Pridneprovye District Court of Cherkassy placed the children's writer Oleg Slepynin under house arrest for two months.

Oleg Slepynin. Photo: strana.ua

The guilt of this man is that he allowed himself to criticize the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and its Tomos from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. According to the SBU, he disseminated information aimed at "inciting religious and ethnic hatred and supporting separatism."

No examples of this information were released. Searches for this "inciting information" on the Internet were also unsuccessful. With a high degree of probability, it can be said that they are absent in nature.

Investigative actions with Oleg Slepynin were carried out with fanfare back in March 2019.Then seven employees of the SBU, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor's Office came to the children's writer’s apartment. As a result of the search, which lasted four hours, his computer, laptop, telephone and several flash memory sticks were seized from him, which have not been given back until now. It is not clear how a writer who creates children's fairy tales could threaten anyone.

Illustration of Oleg Slepynin's literary work

However, the SBU officially reported: “The special service operatives established that a resident of Cherkassy, a native of the Russian Federation, a member of the Union of Writers of Russia, produced materials by order of Russian curators, in which he condemned and negatively assessed the creation of the Local Church of Ukraine and the granting the Tomos. He distributed these materials on Russian Internet resources."

Even from the official press release of the SBU it follows that Slepynin did not incite religious hatred but criticized the creation of the OCU and the issuance of the Tomos, which is his constitutional right.

Art. 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine reads: “Everyone is guaranteed the right to freedom of thought and speech, and to the free expression of his or her views and beliefs. Everyone has the right to freely collect, store, use and disseminate information by oral, written or other means of his or her choice."

Yes, this article says something else: "The exercise of these rights may be restricted by law in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public order." But in this case, law enforcement agencies were supposed to show the suspect any law that prohibits criticism of the OCU and Tomos.

The fault of the writer Slepynin is that he dared criticize the Orthodox Church of Ukraine and its Tomos from the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Mr. Slepynin is charged with Art. 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: “Violation of citizens’ equality of based on on their race, nationality or religious preferences.”

The text of this article reads as follows: “Willful actions inciting national, racial or religious enmity and hatred, humiliation of national honor and dignity, or the insult of citizens' feelings in respect to their religious convictions, and also any direct or indirect restriction of rights, or granting direct or indirect privileges to citizens based on race, color of skin, political, religious and other convictions, sex, ethnic and social origin, property status, place of residence, linguistic or other characteristics, – shall be punishable ... "

There is none of the above in the actions of the writer, not by a long shot, which, hopefully, will be proved in court proceedings.

You are morons, while your Church is evil!

However, the above provisions of Art. 161 of the Criminal Code are explicit in the actions of another citizen of Ukraine, Ayder Muzhdabaev, journalist, blogger, member of the Union of Crimean Tatars in Moscow and deputy head of the ATR TV channel.

This citizen regularly produces insulting statements against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In the aftermath of Easter 2020, he posted a video on social networks in which he accused the UOC of transmitting coronavirus in Ukraine.

Here are quotes from this video:

“The UOC-FSB of the Moscow Patriarchate is one of the main breeding grounds for coronavirus in Ukraine. This is a nest of the coronavirus where COVID-19 just made its altar and infects everybody around. All the First Hierarchs fell ill, but they hide the truth that they are ill, although this is not a secret to anyone. But they only lie, they are barefaced liars, which also shows the attitude of this evil Church, the deceitful Church.”

“I believe that they have shown to all people who have at least two cerebral gyri what kind of Church this is; that it is really an evil Church, a murderous Church that does not value Ukraine as a state or Ukrainians as a nation. Nor does it value the life of each individual person."

“Whatever its flock may be, not all of them are FSB officers. But they are skillfully managed. They are rams in the biblical sense of the word, probably, but not only that.”

“I urge all thinking Orthodox people from this Church to get the fuck away from it literally, because such an outrage on common sense, on the country, on you, on your friends, neighbors, children, parents is unprecedented. This is such a pretentious abomination, exquisite bestiality. I think that this Church will do much more harm."

One needn't be a great expert to understand that this rhetoric totally falls under the provisions of Art. 161 of the Criminal Code. By the way, both law enforcement agencies and the chief sanitary doctor admitted that Easter services were held by the UOC in accordance with quarantine recommendations, and there was no outbreak of the coronavirus after Easter.

However, despite such an overt insult to the religious feelings of millions of Ukrainian citizens, explicit incitement of religious hatred, and an obvious violation of the law, the Ukrainian police did not find any elements of crime in Muzhdabaev's statements.

Response of the National Police to the request to initiate a criminal case against Ayder Muzhdabaev. Photo: Anatoly Shariy's YouTube channel

Hate speech policy

As it was evidenced before, Ukrainian law is applied very discriminately. The reason is that the current Ukrainian authorities cannot get rid of the old Poroshenko's "pattern" and pursue with the policy of pressure on the UOC.

Communities of the canonical Church continue to be illegally re-registered in favor of the OCU, forceful seizures of churches and facts of violence against believers are not investigated, perpetrators are not punished, officials at all stages obstruct the legitimate activities of the UOC, while the media continue their defamation campaign.

Despite the electoral promises of Vladimir Zelenskiy, the discrimination on religious grounds persists in Ukraine. In many cases, affiliation with the UOC is considered as a shameful stigma that does not allow its owner to fully enjoy his rights.

In this regard, one cannot fail to mention the scandal in the Rivne region, where the parishioner of the UOC and the wife of a priest Valentina Ilyina was denied a job in the newspaper Nove Zhittia (New Life) due to her religious beliefs.

Despite the electoral promises of Vladimir Zelenskiy, the discrimination on religious grounds persists in Ukraine.

On the contrary, the supporters of the OCU are given the opportunity to insult the believers of the UOC with impunity, to slander the Church, to call for unlawful actions against its parishioners.

It’s common knowledge when criminal acts are let slide, when the state does not curb them and does not bring the perpetrators to justice, this stimulates new crimes of the law. In this case – further incitement of religious hatred.

This can only be counteracted by applying the law equally to everyone, irrespective of the labels of “patriotic” and “unpatriotic” religious organizations. His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry has repeatedly stated that the UOC does not demand any benefits or preferences for itself. The UOC demands only that the Constitution and laws of Ukraine be honored in relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the same way as in relation to others.

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