New York, 18 January 2023 (TDI): The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris in a Security Council meeting has raised concerns over religious freedoms in Ukraine. Reportedly, there are restrictions on religious freedom in Ukraine.

Similarly, restrictions are also there in the areas of Ukraine that are controlled by Russia. The theme of the meeting was “Threats to International Peace and Security”. 

The meeting was requested by Russia’s Permanent Representative, Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia in order to engage in a discourse, about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 

Nebenzia alleged in an earlier meeting that Ukraine has intentions to destroy the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is canonically linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Killings of Thousands of People

Ilze Brands Kehris has given an overview of human rights violations that are inflicted by Russia on the Ukrainian people. She stated that the hostile armed conflict has caused forced displacement, causalities, and the destruction of infrastructure. 

She further said that there are thousands of causalities documented from the beginning of the war. There are records of more than 7,000 killings. Moreover, more than 11,000 are injured.

Though the UN Human Rights office believes that there are undocumented causalities as well, Brands gave a reference to a Russian missile attack on the residential building in Dnipro. The attack killed 45 civilians, including six children, and 79 injured people.

Also read: UN urges immediate ceasefire in Ukraine as humanitarian crisis escalates

Russia also raided state-owned infrastructure killing 103 civilians and injuring 371. This also caused shortages of electricity and water. 

In the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that are Russian-occupied, many local people suffered from shelling. The Human Rights Office has documented 498 killings that include 25 children. Also, 1675 got injured including 117 children.

Worsening Tensions between Orthodox Communities

The UN official then showed concerns over religious freedom and freedom of association in Ukraine. That also includes Russian-occupied regions. 

UN officials described that at least three clergies are facing criminal charges. The charges include treason and denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. 

Brands urged the Ukrainian authorities to endure that any searches on premises of worship places must comply with international law. Fair trial rights must be given. 

If there occurred any criminal sanction then they should be compatible with the rights of freedom of opinion, expression, and religion.

She further shed light on the two law drafts that are presented in the Ukrainian Parliament. The law drafts could undermine the right to freedom of religion or belief that is enshrined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In concluding remarks, the UN official urged that both parties should ensure the rights of religious freedom. That includes peaceful assembly and association.

Tensions regarding religious freedom exists in Ukraine for decades. But Russia has also aggravated the situation.