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Ukraine's Orthodox Church Faces Eviction In Russia-Annexed Crimea


Archbishop Klyment (center) from Ukraine's independent Orthodox Church leads a service in Simferopol last month.

Ukraine's independent Orthodox Church is facing eviction in Simferopol, the capital of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, which was seized by Russia in 2014.

Crimea's Russia-installed minister of land and property issues, Anna Anyukhina, told the state-run TASS news agency on March 29 that the peninsula's Moscow-controlled government had filed a lawsuit with a local court demanding the church's eviction.

"This religious organization has failed to reorganize its founding documents in compliance with the legislature of the Russian Federation and currently does not pay taxes in Crimea and is not officially registered,” Anyukhina said.

"Due to the reason that this organization has no reason to remain in the building it occupies, the ministry is working on vacating that building and a relevant motion has been filed with a court," she added.

Anyukhina added that the church will be allowed to use the building for free on a contractual basis if it re-registers with Russian authorities.

In early January the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was granted independence, or autocephaly, ending more than 330 years of Russian religious control in 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.

Earlier in March, Russia-controlled authorities in Crimea briefly detained the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in the region, Archbishop Klyment, for unknown reasons.

Klyment, who heads the Orthodox mission to help victims of human rights violations and persons deprived of their freedom, said in February that Crimean authorities were set to revoke a lease on his church because he failed to register the parish in the Russian Federation.

Russia took control of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 after sending in troops, seizing key facilities, and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries.

With reporting by TASS
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