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09:13 13 May 2021

Russia doesn't stop religious persecution in occupied Crimea - State Department

The Russian occupation authorities in Crimea don't stop the religious persecution of Muslims, Greek Catholics, believers of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as well as representatives of other denominations.

This is stated in the 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom, published by the US State Department, Ukrinform reports.

"Russian authorities in the occupied Crimea continue to harass and intimidate religious congregations of minorities, including Crimean Tatar Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the clergy," the report said, citing religious activists, human rights groups, and the media.

As of October last year, 69 Crimean residents remained behind bars for involvement in the Muslim political organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Russia but is legal in many countries, including Ukraine.

In addition, two Jehovah's Witnesses were imprisoned for their faith, the document said.

Russian occupation authorities continued to imprison Crimean Tatar Muslims, especially if authorities suspected them of involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir, and in September, a Russian military court in the southern Crimean district convicted seven Crimean Tatar Muslims arrested in 2017 and 2018, before serving a sentence in a maximum-security colony," the State Department said.

In addition, representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and other denominations are being persecuted by the occupying authorities.

Many religious communities have been effectively displaced from the occupied peninsula by introducing new registration requirements. Only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate was exempted from these requirements, the report said.

"The Russian government has reported that 907 religious communities are registered in Crimea (including Sevastopol)… which is more than a thousand less than it was before the occupation in 2014," the document said.

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