On 02 April 2024, during the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council, two speakers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Metropolitan Theodosius (Snigirev) of Cherkasy and Kaniv and a lawyer representing the interests of UOC believers in various processes, UOC priest Fr Nikita Chekman - spoke during an interactive dialogue of diplomats and international organisations on the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Ukraine.


The speeches of these UOC speakers at the UN platform were organised by human rights organisations - members of the international human rights association "Church against Xenophobia and Discrimination" and concerned the arrests of journalists and religious bloggers who published materials about violations of the rights of UOC believers, as well as searches of the workplaces of lawyers who provide legal defence to UOC believers.


The arrests of 3 journalists of the Union of Orthodox Journalists on 12 March 2024, the arrest of the UOC clergyman Fr Serhiy Chertylin, and the presentation of suspicions of committing crimes to other employees of this publication and the First Cossack publication, allow us to conclude that there is an attempt to actually eliminate independent media in Ukraine, which testifies to violations of the rights of UOC believers, which, in turn, allows the international community to document human rights violations.


Metropolitan Theodosius (Snigirev) called on the international community to protect the rights of the UOJ employees arrested on 12 March 2024, Andrei Ovcharenko, Valery Stupnitsky, Vladimir Babechko and other employees of the UOJ and the online publication Pervyi Kazatsky, and drew attention to the fact that Orthodox journalist Dmitry Skvortsov, who worked outside the above-mentioned publications, was previously detained on criminal charges related to journalistic activities. He has now been held in a pre-trial detention centre for almost 12 months without an actual court hearing. At the same time, the investigation does not disclose all the evidence in his case and does not transfer the case to the stage of trial on the merits, the court periodically only extends the preventive measure in the form of detention. Probably, the same fate awaits the arrested UOJ journalists. 


Writer and historian Alexander Karevin and religious blogger Vasily Cheprazov continue to be under investigation, their cases have not yet been brought to court, and the merits of the charges against them have not been considered in court.


Thus, at present, the fact that people are being held in prison solely on the basis of the preventive measure imposed on them allows the state to keep journalists in custody for as long as it wants without a trial on the merits, in particular, without disclosing to the court and the public the full range of evidence proving their guilt and depriving them of the right to judicial defence.

Lawyer Nikita Chekman, in turn, said that simultaneously with the arrests of UOJ journalists, illegal searches took place at his workplaces, including those associated with the UOC Legal Defence Centre, a project to provide legal assistance to believers and religious organisations suffering from church seizures and illegal re-registrations.  All of these actions together confirm that the Ukrainian authorities have decided to get rid of human rights defenders and journalists who publish facts of violations of the rights of believers.


The members of the international human rights association "Church Against Xenophobia and Discrimination", which includes hierarchs of the Local Churches from different countries, human rights activists and journalists, will promote maximum public and international publicity for these cases, as well as organise international legal support for the protection of people - new prisoners of conscience who have suffered for professing their religious beliefs and professional journalistic and human rights activities.