KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 8 May 2001
I. TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIAN PROTESTANT WAS DEPORTED. A
Russian Christian who left Turkmenistan in April after being held in prison
for four days (see KNS 23 April 2001) was deported, Keston News Service
has learnt. Yevgeny Samsonov, a member of the Word of Life Pentecostal
church, was arrested after taking part in an Easter service and deported on
the orders of the police and Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (former
KGB). Unusually, Samsonov was given a certificate of deportation.
II. UKRAINE: MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE FEARS EXPULSION BUT
AUTHORITIES DENY IT. Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of
the Moscow Patriarchate fear that the local authorities will deprive them of
one of their only two remaining churches in Ukraine's western Lviv region.
The parish priest of St Volodymyr's church, Father Volodymyr Kuseh, told
Keston News Service that two Orthodox churches of different jurisdictions
are next to each other on the same site, but the Lviv authorities recognise the
rival Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate as owners of both. The
deputy head of Lviv regional administration admitted that there is a
`property dispute', but denied to Keston that the Moscow Patriarchate
congregation would be expelled.
I. TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIAN PROTESTANT WAS DEPORTED
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service
A Russian Christian who left Turkmenistan in April after being held in
prison for four days (see KNS 23 April 2001) was deported, Keston News
Service has learnt. Yevgeny Samsonov, a member of the Word of Life
Pentecostal church, was arrested after taking part in an Easter service and
deported on the orders of the police and Turkmenistan's political police, the
KNB (former KGB). Unlike in most previous cases where the government
has deported foreign citizens it accused of being involved in `illegal'
religious communities, the authorities gave Samsonov a certificate of
deportation - though the certificate makes no mention of his arrest on
The Turkmen-language certificate - dated 14 April, of which Keston has
received a copy - recounts that the deportation was ordered by A.G. Charyev
of the Lebap region KNB and two police officers. `Reason for deportation:
violation of Turkmenistan's visa regime,' the certificate declares. The
authorities claimed that Samsonov, a Russian citizen originally from the
Siberian city of Novosibirsk, did not have a visa or residence permit to live
Protestant sources have told Keston that Samsonov was seized at his home in
the eastern town of Turkmenabad (formerly Charjou) in the evening of 8
April. The KNB had originally tried to arrest him at a church meeting held
earlier that day to mark Easter (although Christians did not celebrate Easter
this year until 15 April, churches the Turkmen government treats as illegal
generally hold services at major festivals like Christmas and Easter not on
the day itself as the KNB is especially active in hunting them down on such
days). The Easter service, held in a private home, was raided, but Samsonov
managed to escape, only to be detained when police came to his flat later,
where they broke down two doors before forcing access by climbing through
a neighbour's balcony.
The arresting officers beat Samsonov on the legs before taking him to the
local police station, where KNB officers and an official from the mayor's
office were present. He refused to sign a statement incriminating himself, but
after his fingerprints were taken he did sign to confirm they were his
fingerprints. Officers then forged his signature on documents stating that he
was leaving voluntarily. All his personal possessions - including books, a
camera and a tape-recorder - were confiscated.
When Word of Life church officials telephoned from Moscow to find out
what was happening, Samsonov was transferred to a general police cell,
where he was held with other prisoners. On 13 April the police took him to
Turkmenabad's train station and forcibly put him on the train accompanied
by a police officer. When the train reached the northern town of Tashauz,
just before the train crosses the border into Uzbekistan, Samsonov was given
his deportation certificate and handed into the care of the conductor. He
arrived in Moscow on 16 April with only the clothes he stood up in.
Keston has been unable to reach Samsonov by telephone so far.
The Turkmen authorities have expelled hundreds of Muslims, dozens of
Protestants and a number of Jehovah's Witnesses and Hare Krishna devotees
in the past few years. Word of Life officials told Keston that two of their
members were deported from Turkmenistan last year, while others were
required to leave when visas and residence permits were revoked or not
renewed. In an echo of Soviet practice, the authorities have even deported or
tried to deport a number of Turkmen citizens, despite the fact that
international human rights conventions do not allow governments to deport
their own citizens (see KNS 23 February 2001).
Turkmenistan has the harshest policy towards religious minorities of all the
former Soviet republics. Only communities of the state-sponsored Muslim
Board and the Russian Orthodox Church have registration. All other faiths
are treated as illegal. (END)
II. UKRAINE: MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE FEARS EXPULSION BUT
AUTHORITIES DENY IT
by Evgenia Mussuri, Keston News Service
Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate
fear that the local authorities will deprive them of one of their only two
remaining churches in Ukraine's western Lviv region. The parish priest of St
Volodymyr's church, Father Volodymyr Kuseh, told Keston News Service
from Lviv that two Orthodox churches of different jurisdictions are next to
each other on the same site, but the Lviv authorities recognise the rival
Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate as owners of both and are
threatening to evict his congregation. `We do not know what to expect
because the authorities may come at any moment and demand that we vacate
the building,' Father Volodymyr declared. `Unofficially they say they will
tear down the church very soon, but of course they would not admit it
officially.' The deputy head of Lviv regional administration admitted that
there is a `property dispute', but denied to Keston that the Moscow
Patriarchate congregation would be expelled, without explaining how the
dispute will be resolved.
St Volodymyr's church is a tiny wooden chapel, two metres high, five metres
wide and ten metres long, which can hold no more than a hundred people.
`This is a very small building,' Father Volodymyr told Keston by telephone
on 4 May. `It is not enough for those who attend services, it is always
overcrowded and people often faint during services.' It adjoins the bigger
church - also called St Volodymyr's - belonging to the Kiev Patriarchate,
which has a capacity of about 2,000. The Moscow Patriarchate's other
church in Lviv, St George's, can hold 300 worshippers.
Father Volodymyr said that due to confusion at the city administration with
registration of the land, their church turned out to be in an illegal position.
`We appealed to the city administration to give or sell us a plot of land where
we could construct our own church in August last year, but there has been no
response so far. They are still considering the request.'
To improve the situation the Moscow Patriarchate priests brought in
construction materials to enlarge the church, but local authority officials
banned this, coming to the site and telling the priest to remove them. Instead
the city administration issued a decree on 22 February granting the Kiev
Patriarchate the right to start reconstruction, in the course of which the
Moscow Patriarchate's chapel is planned to be demolished to make way for a
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the process of redistributing places of
worship and land began. During 1991, the area's Catholic and Orthodox
congregations clashed over the way church property was being divided.
Local authorities tried to soften the conflict by granting the Orthodox
community two church buildings on the same site.
All was well until 1993, when a rift formed within Ukraine's Orthodoxy and
the Ukrainian Church of the Kiev Patriarchate was founded. The land and
both churches were registered in the name of the Kiev Patriarchate, the
branch widely supported by Ukrainian nationalists. Father Volodymyr said
the problem hinges on who the authorities consider are the successors of the
Orthodox community of 1991. `If we bore the name Kiev Patriarchate, we
would be favoured,' he maintained.
The deputy head of Lviv regional administration, Volodymyr Geresh, told
Keston on 5 May that the Moscow Patriarchate priests had not been
authorised to bring in building materials. He tried to play down the conflict,
pledging that the Moscow Patriarchate congregation would not be expelled.
`The whole conflict is merely a property problem and nobody is going to
throw the Moscow Patriarchate believers onto the street,' Geresh said. `In
1991 there was a split and the land was registered in the name of the Kiev
Patriarchate, while the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate
occupied the chapel unilaterally.'
Moscow Patriarchate anxiety was fanned by the press and public opinion in
Lviv, a stronghold of Ukrainian nationalism where there is often hostility
toward anything Russian. `Some papers and even public figures express their
dissatisfaction with the very existence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of
the Moscow Patriarchate,' Father Volodymyr complained. He claimed that
some public figures were trying to manipulate public opinion and tie the
Pope's visit to Ukraine in June to the conflict. `They created the image that
we are against the visit of John Paul II and therefore we should be
eliminated,' he declared. `This is untrue. The only thing we want is to have
our own church building, just like any other citizens of Ukraine.'
Lviv's Department for Religious Affairs denies a controversy exists. `We
know nothing about it,' an official at the department told Keston by
telephone on 4 May. `We do not even know what church you are talking
about. This is all made up by the press.' Asked to identify herself, the official
put down the telephone. (END)