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Fears for religious liberty in Ukraine linked to Russian invasion as Evangelicals called ‘U.S spies’

by Premier Journalist

Russia's invasion. According to persecution charity, Release International, evangelical pastors are being arrested by Russian forces on grounds they are 'spies' acting for Washington.

Andrew Boyd of Release International told Premier Christian News about Pastor Ivan and his wife Victoria (names changed), who are looking after a church of some 200 people and supporting a thriving network of five evangelical churches. 

He said when the Russians moved in, "They arrested him, threw him in prison, tortured him, and they accused him of being an American spy".

Speaking to Premier Mr Boyd added: "Where evangelicals are concerned, there is this extraordinary misconception that evangelical Christianity or pentecostal Christianity is an American import, that these people are working for the American authorities. And that's the justification that's being used. That was the justification apparently used in the murder of Christians."

In a new report, Release International say that church leaders in Ukraine are being targeted. Partners of the charity say evangelical pastors are being arrested, interrogated, tortured and even expelled from their towns by the Russian military.

Last month, Ilze Brands Kehris, assistant secretary-general for Human Rights in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), drew attention to wider restrictions to freedom of religion across Ukraine, both in territory controlled by the Government as well as that occupied by the Russian Federation. 

Highlighting the deteriorating relations between the two communities, she told the UN Security Council about searches conducted on the premises of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by Ukraine's security service, criminal charges against at least three clergy and two recent draft laws that could undermine the right to freedom of religion.

But Ukraine's delegate to the UN stressed that everyone in his country has the right to believe in what they consider worthy of belief: "The Russian Federation tortures Orthodox Christians, imprisons Muslims, forces Protestants to flee abroad and persecutes Jehovah Witnesses", he said, adding: "Wherever Russia comes, religious freedom ends."

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