On Friday, February 22, 2019, the news agency Agence France-Presse published a brief video detailing the plight of the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Russian-controlled Crimea.
The video features an interview with His Eminence Archbishop Klyment of Simferopol and Crimea, who explained that he was being required to register the Cathedral of Saints Vladimir and Olga in occupied Simferopol with Russian authorities, and that if he did not do so, he and his congregation would have to vacate the cathedral. However, since the government of Ukraine does not recognize the Russian occupation of Crimea, he could not comply.
“As a result,” said Archbishop Klyment, “I’m caught in a crossfire.”
The Cathedral of Saints Vladimir and Olga is under the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Epiphanios of Kyiv and All Ukraine, who was elected by bishops from Ukraine’s three divided Orthodox Churches at a unity council on December 15, 2018. On January 6, 2019, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew signed the Tomos of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, formally establishing the world’s fifteenth autocephalous Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchate has strongly opposed this pastoral initiative.
According to AFP, “Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in Crimea say they have been targeted by the authorities since Russia seized control of the peninsula five years ago. The situation has worsened since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke away from Russian control in January."
The news agency adds: “Human rights watchdogs warn that Ukrainian identity is being suppressed.”
At a press conference in Kyiv on February 12, Archbishop Klyment, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, “called on the international community, on the ambassadors of European countries, the USA and Canada in Ukraine to take the situation under their personal control.”