Prisoner of Counsience


Church seized in Shakhtersk, Ukraine and pastor robbed, threatened, and beaten 

The evening of June 21, 2014 eight people broke into the building of Word of Life Church in Shakhtersk, in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine. They were masked and dressed in camouflage and carried weapons. They did not introduce themselves, but announced their goal from the doorstep: “Leave the building. Bring the keys within 24 hours to our people in the administration.”

The church members offered no resistance, and turned in the keys to representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Shakhtersk City Administration as ordered. When armed representatives of the DPR came to Word of Life Church the next day, Pastor Nikolai Kalinichenko was in the church building, and they seized him and made him enter a vehicle.

In the car they beat and threatened the elderly pastor. The armed men repeatedly stated that “there should be no one here other than Muslims and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.“ They repeatedly called him a member of a sect and told him to go back to the “Bandera” [radical right wing] headquarters. 

Upon learning Pastor Kalinichenko’s home address, they decided to go to his home. The pastor’s wife had information that they might be visited by the separatists, therefore their son-in-law was with her and he spoke to the terrorists over the intercom when they rang the doorbell on the ground floor of the apartment building. They were surprised to hear a male voice and became enraged, because Nikolai had told them that his wife would be home alone. The son-in-law managed to slip out of the apartment mere seconds before the armed group arrived. When they entered the apartment they began tearing it apart in search of him.

The separatists were also in search of money and weapons. In the end the only things they took were computers. They then forced the pastor to reenter the vehicle with them and drove on. Next, the kidnappers demanded the pastor’s personal car. When they got to the parking lot where the car was parked and picked up the car, they finally released Nikolai. Beaten but alive, he made it home and the very next day Pastor Kalinichenko, his wife, and their daughter and son-in-law left the Donetsk Region. Leaving saved his life, because the next day, June 23rd, the pastor’s apartment was completely destroyed. Intruders fired weapons in all directions, leaving everything in ruins. The pastor learned this from a neighbor.

That same day, June 23rd, two flags appeared outside of Word of Life church in Shakhtersk – one from the Donetsk People’s Republic and one from the Russian Orthodox Church. All church property, including computers and paperwork, were confiscated and the church became a separatist headquarters.

Inga Che, for Russian Ministries


UZBEKISTAN: Raids, religious literature seizures, passport confiscations and expulsions

Uzbekistan's authorities continue to raid peaceful religious or non-religious activity by religious believers, confiscate all religious literature - even including Bibles and New Testaments - from private homes, collect information on members of both registered and unregistered communities, as well as punish them, Forum 18 News Service notes. Even personal notebooks with notes of religious teachings were confiscated, worship services, sports activity and summer holidays disrupted, and even visiting foreigners in one case were expelled from Uzbekistan.

In mid-August in the central Navoi Region, 11 Police officers and other officials raided a Baptist family as they and friends were meeting for worship. They confiscated the religious literature found in their and another church member's homes. They also expelled two visiting co-believers back to Russia and the mother, who is not a Church member, visiting from Israel. Administrative punishments are being prepared for the three local Baptists.

In early August in Chirchik in Tashkent Region, 15 police officers and officials of a variety of agencies raided the home of a Protestant pastor, while he, his son and their friends were playing volleyball. The pastor's religious books and other property were confiscated. All except the Pastor and his son were taken to the Police Station, kept there for more than four hours, questioned and released. It is believed that administrative punishments are being prepared against at least the Pastor and his son.

Elsewhere in the north-western Khorezm Region, police "fabricated" a case against a local Protestant, and in early June a regional Court fined him allegedly for sharing his Christian faith with his relative and one other person, in that relative's home



On Wednesday, August 13, members of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk (DPR or DNR) took over the worship hall of the Word of Life church, where Pastor Leonid Padun holds services. This news was relayed to by ministers of the church.

Leonid Padun, who serves as a Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church and Pastor of the Word of Life church, expressed heartfelt sorrow that the Church can no longer assemble for worship and prayer, and he urged the faithful to lend their support through prayer. The appeal by Leonid Padun is taken from the church website.

Dear Friends! Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I ask for your prayerful support in response to the events of Wednesday, August 13 when, at 10 PM, militants from the DNR took over the building that houses our church. The city is full of vacant buildings, and yet they have decided that they must occupy a house of God, which is not empty for even a day, and where service to God and aid to those in need is never-ceasing. 

There are no words to express our pain and sorrow! For over twenty years we have invested our hearts and our finances into the church building, and now they have deprived us of the opportunity to gather for prayer and service to God. With a heavy heart, I have to inform you that this Sunday, for the first time, the doors of our church will not be opened to those who hunger for God.

It is written that "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all”. I believe that this will not last long, and a time of peace shall come to our city and we will come together again in the house of the Lord, and we will praise God, serve Him, and perform the great commission of Jesus Christ! I shall be very grateful to everyone for their prayerful support.

Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Christian Evangelical Church, Pastor of the Word of Life church in Donetsk

Leonid Padun




July 3 DPR terrorists in Donetsk abducted Father Tikhon (Sergey) Kulbaka of the Greek Catholic Church. Previous to this, he repeatedly received threats, including an incident where slurs and fascist symbols were painted on his car.

Not until July 14 was the priest released by the militants, suffering health issues from maltreatment.

July 3 The Primate of the UOC KP, Patriach Filaret (Denysenko) announced that in Lugansk Region "there are literally NO worship services being conducted, because the separatists won't allow it."

He also said that armed men threatened to shoot the Bishop of the Lugansk and Starobelsk UOC KP, Afanasy (Yavorsky). However, later the militants forced the Bishop out of Lugansk Region after tampering with the brakes on his car – an evident attempt to instigate his death in a road accident.

On July 8, terrorists in Donetsk abducted Yury Ivanov, a UOC priest of the Kiev Patriarchate.

"Earlier on the separatists went to see this priests and demanded that he call Archbishop Sergey (Gorobtsov) of the Dontesk UOC KP with an urgent appeal for help – clearly the intention was to lure him into captivity," said UOC KP Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya).

On July 30, after three weeks of captivity, the priest was released and taken to a safe place.

On July 9, armed militants seized the territory of Donetsk Christian University and issued an order: in connection with the military situation, the DCU was being transfered into the hands of the DPR armed forces together with all the property, equipment, and anything else, and those who failed to submit to this faced the threat of a court-martial.

This report came from Mikhail Cherenkov, the ex-rector of the DCU. He added that the residents of the dormitories and the university staff were driven out, but the next day they were allowed to take with them computers, documents, and personal items.

"Currently, armed men are housed in the DCU dormitories. The gates have been barricaded, there are checkpoints all around, prisoners are being held on the premises, along with a lot of equipment and arms for the fighters," said Oleg Shtein, the DCU Vice Rector for Administrative Affairs, in comments made on August 8 to IRS.

On July 15, militants detained the Catholic priest Viktor Vonsovich, rector of the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in Gorlovka, Donetsk, the Donetsk dean of the Roman Catholic Church. He was held in an occupied building of the security service until his release from captivity on July 25. The militants threatened the priest: if he returned to Gorlovka, they would shoot him.

"Right now they are targeting Catholic priests," said RCC Bishop Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk, Ordinary of the Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia. In his words, there are a lot of provocations against the civilian population, and the clergy is doing everything it can to save people.

On July 27, artillery fire destroyed the house of worship of the Adventist Church in Debalcevo, Donetsk. According to the website for the Church,"right in front of the church building was where the volunteers of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic were deployed. They entrenched themselves in the bushes with their guns, a Grad rocket launcher right there and mortar-guns, and they commenced shooting. The militias used the tactic of salvo firing from one place, and then quickly moving on to another part of the city and carrying on with the gunfire there."

On July 27, Pastor Alexander Kobzev of the Church of Christ was abducted. Donetsk Mufti Said Ismailov reported the abduction. To this day, the location of the pastor remains unknown.

What is evident from all this is that the pro-Russian terrorists are deliberately waging battle against what they regard as undesirable sacred/church communities in the territories under their control in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

It will be recalled that in May 2014, representatives of the self-proclaimed "People's Republic of Donetsk" declared in their own "constitution" that in the territories they have seized "the original, dominant faith is the Orthodox faith ... professed by the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)."

As reported by IRF, the Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine has called upon the international community, including the monitoring missions of the UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union to make efforts to prevent the continuation and escalation of religious intolerance in the territories of Eastern Ukraine controlled by armed separatists.

These facts were gathered by IRF, Ukraine 



Three times they were trying to kill me. . . . .

The entire Christian world is horrified by the barbarous murder of young ministers in Slavyansk. Almost every day we hear about the abduction of various ministers, seizures of church buildings and worship spaces. Very often the motivation for actions by the separatists is simply the fact that those they attack are not Orthodox Christians. 

I want to share with you the miraculous story of my childhood friend, Yuri, who was recently arrested by the pro-Russian separatists, but managed to escape. Yuri and I spent our childhood and teen years together in eastern Ukraine, before I moved to other areas. Yuri stayed behind in eastern Ukraine, and became a lay leader and preacher. I learned about Yuri’s abduction from a text message I received from a relative. After receiving the shocking news, I mobilized the Facebook community to pray for Yuri, and here is the story of his miraculous deliverance from what appeared to be certain death:

At daybreak, after praying with his wife, Yuri left for work, as usual. “Today at our church there was a fast for the city. All the churches were praying for God to intervene in the situation unfolding in our town,” he said.

Just a little while later, shooting began in the region where Yuri lives, and his wife called him, saying she was very afraid. “Of course, I immediately left for home, but throughout the town there were checkpoints everywhere, and they weren’t letting anyone through. Well, I know this town, and went by the back roads. I was almost all the way home, but at the last checkpoint, they spotted me and stopped me.”

It happened that Yuri was driving his son-in-law’s car, which his son-in-law used to make deliveries around the city. Thus, there were several city maps of Donetsk and Makeyevka inside the car. 

"The militia immediately decided that I must be a spotter in the service of the Ukrainian artillery. They immediately turned their guns on me and began to threaten me. They began to find fault with everything. They saw an ordinary light in the car that was flickering on and off, and said to me: ‘So that’s how you send signals to your guys, eh?’ But this was just a ‘decoy’ - as we call it where I’m from. The light on the alarm system. They tied my hands together. Then they started to rip out the paneling and beat me with the butt of their guns. Then one announced, ‘We’re going to shoot you now.’ He aimed the gun at me, released the safety, but then he was approached by one of the bosses who whispered something in his ear and together they moved aside. I immediately thought of the Psalm: "His angels charge over thee, to keep thee..." and then thought, "God, glory to Thee ...".

After this they decided to take Yuri to another checkpoint. They forced him inside the car and began to scrutinize his notebook and documents.

“They didn’t like it when they found biblical quotes in a notebook. They asked me what church I attended. After hearing that I went to an evangelical church, they immediately concluded that it was an American church. I tried to talk to them, tell them ‘There is one God for all: for Americans, Russians, and Ukrainians.’ In response they said, ‘So right here, right now, you’re going talk to us about God?’” 

At the second checkpoint, they again decided to execute Yuri. 

“One of them walked up to me, pointed a machine gun at me, but the weapon jammed. I didn’t even manage to say a word – I was simply rejoicing that, for the second time, God revealed to me His mercy.

“Then they began to shove me in the back with a machine gun to get me to run forward, but then another militant ran up to us, asking what they were pushing me from behind for:

‘Why is he being held?’

‘He’s a spotter.’

They began to shoot at my feet, threatening, ‘We’re going to shoot off all your toes, and you’re going to confess to us.’ Then they stood me against the wall, and a militant aimed a shotgun at me like he was going to shoot, but then some correspondents begin walking by. They quickly shoved me to the ground. The correspondents walked up and asked the militants:

‘Can we take some photos?’

‘Go ahead.’

And I was so offended. Here these people are reporters, and there I was lying on the ground, tied up, a citizen of the town. It turns out that these were journalists from Russia.”

“And again, shooting broke out somewhere. And I was lying there, thinking that this is, in fact, the third time the militants were trying to shoot me. I saw that the militias were distracted, and I prayed for God to send me an angel. And somehow I noticed that there’s a wooded area nearby, and I got up and ran over there. I suddenly fell into a trench. I got up and thought, where do I go? Everywhere there was shooting. Suddenly I noticed the roots of a tree, and hid behind them. I decided to wait until the shootout was over. I heard the militants start to look for me. They approached the wooded area and began to spray it with bullets, right over my head, thinking that they’ll hit me. And before I hid in the roots of the tree, I was going to lie in those woods. They fired their weapons into the woods and left.” 

“I went on sitting in the roots of the tree with my hands bound and thought about what I should do. I did not dare crawl out of there. I looked at the trench, and thought that here I was, in my ready-made grave. I thought that if this was to be my destiny, then this was where I would die. I prayed, and repented once more.”

“The militants climbed all over the place. They combed the woods but did not find me. I had gone completely numb. Little by little I began to somehow let go of everything. I remembered that today was a day of fasting for me. It’s a good thing to undergo fasting, like a prophet, while in a pit. I looked again at the woodlands and thought how good it was that I didn’t run there. And right here, lying in the roots, I looked at the sky and saw an angel. God had sent it to me so that I might live.”

“The branches around me were dry and if I were to begin climbing out the militants would hear it. I decided to make my move when a car drove by. I waited until a car was approaching and started to scramble out and then I saw a fence nearby with a hole in it. But there happened to be a dog there that barked all the time. I decided to climb through the hole. I prayed, thinking, “Lord, I don’t know how to talk to dogs.” But I had no other option. I waited until another car was passing by and then climbed through the hole. The dog and I looked at each other I asked him, “How’s it going?” He looked at me, and didn’t bark. I then thought, well, everything’s going okay.” 

“It turns out that I was in a courtyard in the back. Besides the dog, there was some charcoal lying there. Then I heard the caretaker walking around. I got up to his gate-house...”

“What are you doing here?”

“Grandfather, they’re shooting out there. I jumped the fence to get away and saw you here.” 

“Alright then, stay here for a bit. Do you have anything to drink?”

“No, I don’t drink. But later I’ll come back with some strong tea and we'll talk about the meaning of life.”

“Okay then, strong tea it is, then.”

“We talked for awhile longer. His wife was there, also, tipsy. And I heard that the gunmen had been around asking about me, ‘Where is the guy in the striped shirt?’ I quickly took it off. I sat there, shirtless, and couldn’t stop thinking that I hope they didn’t notice. The caretaker said to me, ‘Don’t be afraid of those guys. They’re our guys.’ Then he began to chase me out. He said that soon they would be coming to make a check, and since I was an outsider, it would only cause problems. We agreed that we would wait until the militants walked away and then I would go.”

“Everything quieted down, and I finally stepped out of there and quickly ran across the road. I had to travel almost three kilometers to get to my own street. I made it home and noticed that the time for fasting had ended. I told my wife how I had been saved by God three times. My death, it seems was not to be there, but somewhere else, instead. Thank you all who prayed for me and thank you Lord for your faithfulness and allowing me to continue serving You on this earth! "