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Crimean Court Orders Demolition Of Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy, said the decision "grossly violates one of the fundamental human rights: freedom of conscience and religion."

A Russian-controlled court in annexed Crimea has ordered the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) to demolish its chapel in Yevpatoria.

The decision can be appealed within a month.

The Russian administration had been trying to vacate the territory on which the place of worship stands over allegations that the OCU didn't have the proper building permits from when construction began in 2014.

Metropolitan Epifaniy, the head of the recently formed, independent OCU, said on Facebook that the court decision "grossly violates one of the fundamental human rights: freedom of conscience and religion."

When Russia sent in masked soldiers without military insignia to take over Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in early 2014, there were 46 parishes affiliated with the Kyiv Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church.

After the first year of annexation, eight OCU parishes remained in Crimea.

"All faiths, except the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, have come under fire in occupied Crimea," the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group said in September regarding the clampdown on the peninsula.

The last major OCU congregation was evicted from its church in September by court order in the peninsula's capital of Simferopol.

The same month, the Russian Justice Ministry in Crimea for the third time since 2014 denied registration to the OCU on the peninsula.

In October 2018, Ukraine secured approval from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople -- the spiritual head of Orthodoxy -- to set up an independent Orthodox church.

Three months later, the OCU was granted independence, or autocephaly, ending more than 330 years of Russian religious control of Ukraine.

Moscow long opposed such efforts by the Ukrainians for an independent church, which intensified after Russia annexed Crimea and threw support to separatists in parts of Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.