Powerlessness and Fear in Ukraine: Temples of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kiev Continue to Burn Before Easter

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On the night of April 6th in the center of the Ukrainian capital, on 88 Zhilyanskaya Street, unknown persons set fire to a Temple of the Jerusalem icon of the Mother of God. This time it was succeeded to put the fire out in time, but experts are sure — the Orthodox churches in Kiev belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) will continue to be set on fire. None of the priest have any doubts that the arson of ROC churches is the work of local radical nationalists. At the same time the local authorities prefer to pretend that “churches are set on fire by some hooligans out of boredom”. The correspondent of the Federal News Agency (FAN) visited the place of events and was convinced that two emotions reign in any such incident — powerlessness and fear.

In order to be convinced that the position of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine worsens with every passing day, it is enough to give a simple chronology of events. Three days ago, in the night from April 2nd to 3rd, in the Rovno region a church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was captured. The nationalists acting in the interests of the Kiev patriarchate expelled all believers from the church, threatening to use weapons against them. And then local law enforcement bodies for some reason also imposed an arrest on the church.

On the night of March 10th in the Obolonsky district of Kiev unknown persons set fire to a church of the Transfiguration of Christ. At about 03:00 the attackers broke a window, filled the inside with a gas mixture, and then set fire to the church. Fortunately, firefighters quickly arrived to the scene of the crime and extinguished the flames. The local police thus intimated a criminal case, but almost nobody doubts that it will result in anything.

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In the night of March 2nd in the Svyatoshinsky district of Kiev a wooden church of the ROC located on Akademika Efremov Street completely burned down. After the fire only the walls remained. And concerning this case, law enforcement bodies didn’t find any of the culprits. Lastly, in February of 2018 radicals from the C14 group tried to set fire to the Tithe church in the center of Kiev. Then two of the arsonists were caught, however no punishment followed.


When the correspondent of the FAN arrived to the church on Zhilyanskaya, its workers were diligently cleaning up the results of the arson — they were washing a burned wall and, apparently, they were preparing to sand it down and put a primer on the wall already in the evening. All requests to comment on the situation frightened the workers of the church outright.

“Who are you, we won’t tell you anything! Only the prior can comment on this,” they said.

At the same time tidy young people in civilian clothes with a military posture walked around the church. They reacted very cautiously towards the photographing of the burned church wall and checked the documents of everyone who approached it with photo apparatus or a camera. When asked about what could have caused the arson, the security officers in plain clothes readily answered.

“Oh, it is the youth that rages! You see — here there is a playground nearby, here teenagers gather in the evening, they smoke and drink. Most likely, they saw a pile of garbage near the church wall and decided it to set fire to it. So everything is simple, and you, journalists, still try to search for a certain political motive!” reported the security officer.

The correspondent of the FAN tried to imagine the Kiev youth setting fire to the church because there is nothing else to do – moreover, on the eve of Easter — and he couldn’t imagine it. It would never come into the mind of ordinary young Kievans to set fire to garbage that is lying next to the church wall. So the security officer obviously consciously lied. But he thus forcedly played the game that was started by both the Kiev and Ukrainian authorities — “if someone burns the church of the ROC, it means that it is simply hooliganism”.

As the prior of the temple archpriest Dimitry Garchuk later reported, this church is “the only temple in Kiev in honor of the Jerusalem icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.

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