Deputy Political Counselor
New York, New York
July 26, 2023
Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to Director Saad for her briefing today. I’ll be brief, given the number of times this year Russia has already convened us to discuss this issue.
The United States takes seriously allegations of violations of human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. We expect all governments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
What we see in this meeting, however, is Russia cynically complaining of mistreatment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church while it engages in systematic religious oppression in territories under its occupation.
Russia continues to mistreat members of religious minority groups in areas of Ukraine it occupies during its illegal war. Russia’s calling for this meeting after its destruction of Odesa’s historic Transfiguration Cathedral, which belongs to the very Ukrainian Orthodox Church the Russian government claims to be defending today, is appalling.
Russia’s damage to religious sites and places of worship in Ukraine is well-documented. Ukraine’s Institute for Religious Freedom reported that 494 sites in Ukraine have been destroyed, damaged, or looted in Russia’s unconscionable war.
We urge the Kremlin to cease its senseless war and respect the human rights of all and the safety of Ukraine’s civilian population, including members of all religious communities.