Russia is kidnapping and torturing Ukrainian protestant Christians much the way it persecuted believers under Soviet Communism.
The charge is being made by a Christian persecution watchdog group that revealed an investigation into the deaths of a pastor and his son. The bodies of 52-year-old Ukrainian Evangelical church leader Anatoliy Prokopchuk and his 19-year-old son, Oleksandr, were discovered in December just weeks after their disappearance.
According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and the Global Investigative Journalism Network, the father and son were abducted by Russian soldiers on November 22 while they were working in their garage, close to Kherson.
Local authorities say were tortured before being killed, just four days after being abducted.
The reasons for their abduction are not known. However, according to Pavel, a Ukrainian partner organization of UK religious freedom charity Release International, when the Russian troops arrested the father and son, the soldiers claimed: “Your church has no right to exist, as it has connections with America and other western countries.”
Pavel added: “Their bodies had signs of prolonged and excruciating torture. They were so mutilated that it was difficult to identify them.”
The horrific incident comes after Russian occupying forces shut down the three largest evangelical Protestant churches in Melitopol in September and October. It also closed protestant churches in Mariupol.
In another raid, Russian soldiers reportedly claimed that only the Russian Orthodox faith would be tolerated. The incident joins a long list of similar atrocities against protestant churches in occupied Ukraine. Hundreds of churches have been bombed as Russia “cleanses” the country of what is seen as “Western” religious influence.
The news comes after missile strikes again this week in which Russia targeted the maternity wing of a large medical center. The Biden administration this week finally agreed to supply Ukraine with Patriot missiles in order to protect civilian infrastructure in Ukraine’s largest cities.
Andrew Boyd from Release International told Premier Christian News there’s much more to the war than makes the headlines.
“In some ways, what’s been going on in Ukraine has been deliberately and probably very cynically framed by Vladimir Putin as a holy war,” he said.
“An extraordinary justification for what is going on there. But we’re seeing that there are some Russian troops who are buying into that notion, and who are closing down churches and doing this kind of appalling abuse.”
Boyd claimed that the way non-Orthodox Christians are being treated is reflecting what happened to them before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“We need to be looking at Russia because there are pro-Russian forces who are doing this and this is very redolent of what took place within the Soviet Union”.
He added: “In Ukraine, in areas occupied by Russian forces, we see the same kind of paranoia and brutality that’s being expressed towards Christians in those occupied areas, as was within the Soviet Union. So there is a sense of Deja vu about all of this”.
Boyd urged people to pray that God will strengthen the faith of Ukrainian Christians who are facing immense difficulties during the invasion.
“Let’s take the heaviness that we feel and let’s turn it into prayer for the people of Ukraine that they will know God, they’ll know the Lord’s protection, that they’ll keep their hearts soft, ” he said.
“Let’s turn that prayer into prayer for the Russian soldiers who are doing this kind of thing. There’s a whole raft of stories out there at the moment of atrocities being committed by Russian soldiers. These people need help too. Let’s keep our hearts softened in all of this.”
Listen to an interview with Andrew Boyd here: