KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 9 July 2001.=20
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist=20
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

UKRAINE: ORTHODOX BROTHERHOOD DENIED REGISTRATION.=20
Since 1997, the Orthodox Brotherhood of All Saints in Donetsk has battled=20
unsuccessfully to register with the authorities. Its leader, Aleksey Ilyin,
told=20
Keston News Service that the authorities have never given any sound=20
explanation for the refusals, but he is certain the reason lies in
politics. The=20
head of Donetsk's Department for Religious Affairs told Keston that the 26-
year-old Ilyin is `too young' to lead such a group, that the Brotherhood's=
=20
members do not know any prayers and that it cannot be registered=20
independently of any of the three Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine.

UKRAINE: ORTHODOX BROTHERHOOD DENIED REGISTRATION

by Evgenia Mussuri, Keston News Service

Since 1997, the Orthodox Brotherhood of All Saints in the eastern Ukrainian=
=20
city of Donetsk has battled unsuccessfully to register with the authorities.=
=20
The Brotherhood's leader, Aleksey Ilyin, told Keston News Service that the=
=20
authorities have never given any sound explanation for the refusals, but he
is=20
certain the reason lies in politics. The head of Donetsk's Department for=20
Religious Affairs, one of the state agencies to have rejected the
registration=20
application, told Keston that the 26-year-old Ilyin is `too young' to lead
such=20
a group, that the Brotherhood's members do not know any prayers and that it=
=20
cannot be registered independently of any of the three Orthodox=
jurisdictions=20
in Ukraine.

Ilyin wants the brotherhood - which has some 30 members, all of them=20
young - to be an independent source of religious education for young people,=
=20
with an emphasis on publishing Orthodox books and preaching. The group=20
does not want to affiliate with the existing recognised Orthodox Churches,=
=20
claming they maintain close ties with Ukraine's State Security Service (SBU,=
=20
former KGB). They believe the churches pass information about=20
worshippers onto the SBU, violating the secrecy of confession.

In April 1997, Ilyin sought to register his newly-formed brotherhood as a=20
religious organisation with the Donetsk Department for Religious Affairs.=20
However, rather than registering it, the authorities branded it a `dangerous=
=20
totalitarian sect'.

Ilyin appealed to Donetsk regional court. The court supported the department=
=20
and rather than recognising the group's religious character, labelled it an=
=20
illegal social organisation. Ilyin appealed to the Supreme Court in the=20
Ukrainian capital Kiev, which overturned the decision of the regional court=
=20
and ordered a new hearing. The Donetsk court again refused to register the=
=20
brotherhood and advised Ilyin to take the matter to the State Committee for=
=20
Religious Affairs in Kiev. That body also refused to register the group,=20
advising it to go to the Donetsk Department for Religious Affairs.=20

By August 1998, after having tried every available avenue the government=20
offered, Ilyin took his case to the European Commission of Human Rights,=20
but the complaint was rejected on procedural grounds as the six-month=20
appeal period had lapsed.

Without recognition, the group lacks a legal basis from which to operate and=
=20
cannot function as its members wish. They can only gather in private flats=
=20
and talk; they cannot gather outside to preach, own any property or register=
=20
any publication. Ukrainian laws consider the activity of any unregistered=20
organisation, including meetings, preaching and the distribution of
literature,=20
to be violations of the law. Organisers are subject to fines.

Ilyin describes the registration refusal as institutional discrimination on
the=20
basis of religious belief. `The state does not want to register us because=
we=20
are not a part of any church,' he told Keston from Donetsk on 6 July. `I was=
=20
approached several times by the local authorities and informally told that
if I=20
wanted registration to be approved, I should become part of the Ukrainian=20
Orthodox Church.'

Ilyin said he had been forced to change his telephone number because of=20
constant calls he received from strangers and claimed his phone line had=20
been illegally tapped. Other members were also under pressure, causing=20
some to leave the group. `When we started the brotherhood, we were still=20
studying,' Ilyin said. `At that time the university was in charge of
assigning=20
its students to work. Some of us could not get employment as a result of=20
being part of the brotherhood and were forced to move elsewhere.'

`It is obvious that if we are independent from any church, we will be=20
uncontrollable by the state,' he declared. `The authorities probably see=
some=20
danger in this.' Ilyin also believes the Orthodox Church has influenced the=
=20
authorities not to grant his group legal status, but admits he lacks=
evidence.

The authorities seem unlikely to budge. `This case has gone through all the=
=20
relevant institutions and courts,' Gennady Kostenko, who heads Donetsk's=20
Department for Religious Affairs, told Keston from Donetsk on 6 July. `The=
=20
decisions of all of them were legally sound.' Asked why he rejected the=20
registration application, Kostenko responded: `I only acted in accordance=20
with the law. The court decision proves that. There are both religious=
canons=20
and legal regulations for an Orthodox Brotherhood which state that any=20
brotherhood should be subordinate to the Orthodox Church. But he [Ilyin]=20
wants to be on his own. That can't be.' Kostenko said that Ilyin should have=
=20
asked any Orthodox Church leader for a blessing for his brotherhood first.=
=20

`The whole situation around this brotherhood is simply ridiculous. At the=20
time they started it they were just a group of students. They do not even=20
know such basic prayers as the Lord's Prayer.' (END)