Ukraine ‘targeting’ clergy – Ambassador

Accusation was made by Canadian ambassador

The Ukrainian government has been accused of targeting the local Catholic Church in its attempts to end protests against President Viktor Yanukovych.

The accusation was made by Canada’s ambassador for human rights, Andrew Bennett, as he undertook a fact-finding mission to Kiev at the end of January.

Referring to a letter to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church earlier in the month in which the government warned that the Church might have its right to operate in Ukraine revoked if its clergy continued to minister to protestors, Ambassador Bennett confirmed that no other religious group or Church had received such a letter. The move he said, suggested a possible testing of reaction among the faithful of the country’s largest Church ahead of a wider crackdown against not only the Greek Catholic Church but others as demonstrations continue.

The ambassador voiced further concern on the activities of the riot police, whom, he said, have been actively engaged in intimidating clergy in or near the sites of protest in Kiev.

 “It seems they were particularly targeted,” Ambassador Bennett said. He added: “The Churches in Ukraine have tremendous respect among the people and their legitimacy has been enhanced through all of this.”