Murder of Pentecostals in Sloviansk

crime in Ukraine in June 2014

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Murder of Pentecostals in Sloviansk
Part of Russo-Ukrainian War
Murder of Pentecostals in Sloviansk is located in Ukraine
Murder of Pentecostals in Sloviansk
Location of Sloviansk in Ukraine
LocationSloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine
DateJune 2014
Attack type
PerpetratorsRussian Orthodox Army (alleged)

On June 2014, in the city of Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, four members of Pentecostal church, Transfiguration of The Lord, (Ukrainian: Преображення Господнього) were taken and allegedly killed by members of the Russian Orthodox Army.[1][2]

The reasons why the killings happened are disputed. While Ukrainian officials believe the victims were killed over sending supplies and information to the Ukrainian army, the church officials believed the incident to be religious persecution.


The Pentecostal church, Transfiguration of The Lord, in Sloviansk was formed in 2003 and belonged to the Church of Christians of Evangelic Faith of Ukraine. It bought a former Palace of Culture building to use for church services. The senior pastor of the church was Alexander Pavenko (Ukrainian: Олександр Павенко).[3]

On April 12, 2014, a group of armed men seized government buildings in Sloviansk, joining it to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic. According to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the US State Department, this began a period of religious persecution of Christian Protestant denominations in Pro-Russian separatists control region.[2]

Chronicle of the events

Pro-Russian militants on a street of Slavyansk

On June 8, 2014, during a Pentecost church service, militants of the Russian Orthodox Army took four members of the church to an unknown destination.[1] The men who were taken are:

  • Volodymyr Olexandrovych Velychko (Ukrainian: Володимир Олександрович Величко; born in 1973) — who was a married father of 8 children.
  • Viktor Ivanovych Bradarskiy (Ukrainian: Віктор Іванович Брадарский; born in 1974) — who was a married father of 3 children.
  • Ruvim Olexandrovych Pavenko (Ukrainian: Рувим Олександрович Павенко; born in 1984) — son of a pastor.
  • Albert Olexandrovych Pavenko (Ukrainian: Альберт Олександрович Павенко; born in 1990) — a married son of a pastor.

Presumably, they had planned to seize the senior pastor, who was not at the church at the time. The rebels seized four cars belonging to the men.[4] The detainees were charged by the militants with "crime against the DRP", which was expressed in support of the Ukrainian army.[4][5]

It was determined that they were detained in the basement of the city fire department. According to the testimony of Slavyansk's deputy prosecutor, who managed to escape from captivity by the DRP, he had heard cries of the detainees who had been tortured during interrogation.[6]

At 3 am on June 9, the four arrested were ordered to get into car and were driven toward the mountain Karachoun. followed by two cars with rebels. About 4:00 am on June 9 the car with detainees had been shot by rebels. It is believed that to hide the extent to which the brothers were tortured, the car was burned.[1] Advisor of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko [uk] assumed that the attackers were trying to make it seem that death of the passengers was caused by mortar fire of the Ukrainian military.[7]

According to Freedon Vekua (Ukrainian: Фрідон Векуа) who was deputy mayor of Slavyansk on Humanitarian Affairs at that time, on the morning of June 9 information about the death of the four people was announced at closed meeting of the heads of the DRP.[8] According to Anton Gerashchenko, the rebels' leader Igor Strelkov condemned the murder and the men who performed the crimes were reprimanded.[7][9][10]

Victor Bradarskiy's widow Natalia said that on June 10 she had been told by the city police department that her husband was among the men taken by the rebels, and she was allowed to provide food and medicine for her husband. According to her, rebels stated through representatives that the detainees were serving sentences, digging trenches near the village of Semenovka (a suburb of Kramatorsk) and would be released soon. In early July, there were reports by relatives of detainees that the four men were previously released.[11]

Member of Human Rights Watch Yulia Gorbunova (Ukrainian: Юлія Горбунова) said locals claimed that the bodies of unidentified people were taken to the morgue, where the remained until 11 June, after which they were buried in a mass grave.[12]

According to Anton Gerashchenko, the burned car remained on the sidelines and was later identified as belonging to B. Bradarskiy by the engine number. The rest of the cars of the killed men were seized by rebels and driven from Slavyansk during the withdrawal of DRP's forces.[9]

On July 7, after Slavyansk completely passed under the control of Ukrainian soldiers, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Arsen Avakov and his deputy Vasyl Pascal (Ukrainian: Василь Паскаль) who arrived in the city. Natalia Bradarskaya asked them to help her to find the missing.[11]

On July 14, Anton Gerashchenko said that exhumation of bodies from the mass grave was conducted, and that the bodies had signs of tortures and abuses.[13] Among the found 14 bodies, were the bodies of Pavenko brothers and V. Bradarsky, identified by remnants of their clothing. The severely charred body of Velichko was identified later by DNA profiling. On July 20, after identification procedures were completed, the bodies were reburied at the site of their discovery - near a children's hospital.[14][15]

Media coverage

On July 15, 2014, the English-language service of the Russian state radio station Voice of Russia published an article, citing Anton Gerashchenko, in which they claimed that the two priests and two sons of one of the priests were killed for helping the rebels and that the murderers were Ukrainian nationalists.

Journalist of The New York Times, Andrew Higgins, wrote that it was believed that the priests were pro-Russian and due to their affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church were believed to be interested in uniting the Slavic lands of the Middle Ages, which included western Russia, the Ukraine, and Belarus. There was evidence that they helped support the rebels, including storing ammunition in the church.[16]

On the other hand, Christian Science Monitor newspaper correspondent Scott Peterson said that the killers were not Ukrainians, but were pro-Russian separatists.[15]

Causes of the execution

According to the Advisor of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, Anton Gerashchenko, the killed men were accused of sending food to checkpoints of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and the National Guard, as well as possibly informing the Ukrainian military about insurgent activities.[9][17] There were rumors that the killed men brought chemical or biological weapons to Slavyansk.[11] However, relatives deny that the men cooperated with the Ukrainian army.[18][15] Correspondent of the Financial Times Guy Chaz also called the accusations of collaboration with the AFU as a false.[19]

Among other theories was that the men were kidnapped for ransom, however, according to a witnesses, church officials believe that religion was the only cause of the deaths.[20] The father of Pavenko brothers was a businessman; he owned furniture factory and the "Semyonov" sausage manufactory. Shortly before the crime, a batch of steel structures arrived at one of the family factory of Pavenko; perhaps this was the source of rumors about weapons being delivered to the Ukrainian army.[21]


The murder is cited as a main example of religious persecution in the DRP.[22][23][24] Ukrainian BBC correspondent Svetlana Dorosh called the murder the most high-profile crime against priests, committed during the War in Donbas.[25] The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the US State Department has included this incident in the list of examples of Protestants persecution in the territory uncontrolled by the Ukrainian authorities.[2]

The theory of religious persecution was documented in the joint report of the International Partnership for Human Rights (Brussels), the human rights organization "Center for Civil Liberties" (Russian: Центр гражданских свобод) (Kyiv)[26] and in the publications of the Russian philosopher Nicholas Karpitsky (Russian: Николай Карлицкий) living in Ukraine.[27][28]

After the Charlie Hebdo shooting, when the Je suis Charlie (French: I am Charlie) slogan widely spread on the Internet, the Ukrainian blogger and public figure Denis Kazansky published the post "We all are Protestants from Slavyansk", offering it as a variant of the solidarity slogan. The material was reprinted by a number of media and bloggers.[29][30][31][32][33]


  1. ^ a b c Фионик Д. Восхождение. Кто убил четырёх христиан в осаждённом Славянске. Focus  (29 August 2014). Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  3. ^ Куриленко В. П. Наша «Новая Жизнь». История церкви, 1947-2007 гг.. — Славянск: Ездра, 2007. — С. 294—295. — 546.
  4. ^ a b Михайло Паночко: «Висловлюємо співчуття сім'ям загиблих братів служителів церкви ХВЄ у Слов'янську» // ЦХВЄУ, 17 July 2014
  5. ^ Смерть служителів у Слов'янську (укр.) // Благовісник : журнал. — Луцк, 2014. — Вип. 85. — No. 3. — С. 41.
  6. ^ Паночко выразил соболезнования семьям погибших братьев церкви ХВЕ в Славянске». Информационнo-аналитический портал «Мир Вам!» (30 July 2014). Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  7. ^ a b В Славянске террористы «Стрелкова» замордовали протестантского пастора и его детей. iPress (21 July 2014). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  8. ^ Рингис А. Славянск. Год после «ДНР». Українська правда (15 апреля 2015). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Геращенко А. >Ю. Русский православный фашизм в действии ! // Facebook. — 20.07.2014. Архивировано из первоисточника 26 May 2016.
  10. ^ Опубликованы детали убийства пророссийскими боевиками протестантских служителей в восточноукраинском Славянске.
  11. ^ a b c Красовский Б. Чужая религия как оправдание убийства. — Сайт города Славянска (29 May 2015). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  12. ^ Gorbunova Y. Dispatches: Mass Grave Found in Eastern Ukraine.
  13. ^ МВС України заявляє, що виявило могилу двох замучених бойовиками священиків зі Слов'янська // РБК-УкраЇна, 14.07.2014.
  14. ^ В Славянске похоронили протестантов, захваченных в церкви после богослужения и расстрелянных боевиками ДНР.
  15. ^ a b c Scott Peterson (2014-08-12). "A Ukrainian murder mystery ensnares a church in former rebel stronghold". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2016-05-24. That pro-Russia separatists kidnapped and murdered four members of a Pentecostal church in Slaviansk seems sure. But very little else about the incident is. [...] In mid-July, for example, state-run Voice of Russia reported that the "mutilated bodies" of two priests had been found in the Slaviansk grave. It purported to quote Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs, saying the churchmen "were tortured and killed by the Ukrainian nationalists." He was misquoted, however, and told the Monitor in Kyiv that the "terrorist" killers were in fact pro-Russian separatists, not Ukrainians.
  16. ^ Andrew Higgins (9 September 2014). "Evidence Grows of Russian Orthodox Clergy's Aiding Ukraine Rebels". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  17. ^ Обнаружены изувеченные тела двух священников из Славянска. Взгляд.ру (14 July 2014). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  18. ^ Сергей Ваганов, Ирина Горбасева. Восхождение. Кто убил четырёх христиан в осаждённом Славянске. Портал «Религия в Украине» (2 сентября 2014). Retrieved 24 May 2016.
  19. ^ Guy Chazan.
  20. ^ "Пастора из Славянска с сынами могли убить как за веру, так и из-за денег". podrobnosti. July 15, 2014.
  21. ^ Мария Василь На телах замученных священников были страшные следы пыток и издевательств // гл. ред. Александр Швец Факты и комментарии : газета. — Киев, 2014. — 26 July
  22. ^ " — Протестанты на Донбассе жалуются на преследования со стороны террористов". Archived from the original on 2016-07-01. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  23. ^ " — «Когда Бог становится оружием» — доклад правозащитников о религиозном преследовании в «ЛНР/ДНР»". Archived from the original on 2016-01-09. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
  24. ^ Луганский Радар — Охота на ведьм: террор «новой власти» Донбасса на религиозной почве
  25. ^ Светлана Дорош.
  26. ^ Alexandra Novitchkova, Mariia Tomak, Svitlana Valko, Victoria Cooper.
  27. ^ Карпицкий Н.
  28. ^ Karpitsky 2015, p. 11-13.
  29. ^ Денис Казанский. Мы все - протестанты из Славянска. Портал Релігія в Україні (19 января 2015). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  30. ^ Денис Казанский. Мы все - протестанты из Славянска. Интернет-издание «Аргумент» (9 января 2015). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  31. ^ Денис Казанский. Почему фанатики, убившие французов, поставили на уши всю Европу, а фанатики, убившие украинцев, раздают в Москве интервью?. Главком, ООО «Украинские медийные системы» (9 января 2015). Retrieved 13 February 2016.
  32. ^ Мы все — протестанты из Славянска.
  33. ^ 8 прихожан, убитых в Славянске Archived 2016-03-02 at the Wayback Machine. Інститут Трансформації Суспільства (9 января 2015). Retrieved 13 February 2016.


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