15 März 2023

USCIRF Hearing on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for Religious Freedom

Hearing Transcript
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) held a virtual hearing on the Russian government’s religious freedom violations in Ukraine and Russia.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine a year ago, Russian forces have committed numerous religious freedom and other related human rights violations in Ukraine, including the killing and torture of religious leaders and the destruction of countless houses of worship. Russian officials have repeatedly turned to antisemitic rhetoric and Holocaust distortion in an effort to justify the country’s groundless invasion. In the areas of Ukraine that Russia has occupied since 2014, its de facto authorities and proxies have imposed draconian laws to suppress religious communities such as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, predominantly Muslim Crimean Tatars and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Meanwhile, in Russia, the state has continued to prosecute an ever-growing list of religious groups as so-called “extremists” for their peaceful religious activities and launched a ruthless campaign to silence civil society and independent media.
Witnesses identified Russia’s religious freedom violations, analyzed the invasion’s impact on religious freedom and other related human rights, and discussed recommendations for U.S. policy toward Russia.
Opening Remarks
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Ranking Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission
Recorded Remarks
Nury Turkel, Chair, USCIRF
Written Remarks
Abraham Cooper, Vice Chair, USCIRF
Written Remarks
Sharon Kleinbaum, Commissioner, USCIRF
Written Remarks
Dmytro Vovk, Visiting Associate Professor at Cardozo School of Law; member of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)’s Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Written Testimony
Rachel Denber, Deputy Director, Europe and Central Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Written Testimony
Dennis Christensen, former religious prisoner of conscience imprisoned in Russia
Written Testimony
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi and President of the Conference of European Rabbis; Exiled Chief Rabbi of Moscow
Crimean Tatar activist 
Written Testimony