MARIUPOL, Ukraine — A Protestant pastor and his wife were freed Oct. 21 after being held by Russia’s military for a month.
On Sept. 21, masked Russian soldiers came to the home of Leonid Ponomaryov, pastor of Baptist Council of Churches in Mariupol in the Donetsk Region, and his wife Tatyana. Neighbors reported hearing cries and groans after the soldiers arrived, noted human rights group Forum 18.
The two were held for a month.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian officials and soldiers have targeted religious entities in occupied areas. Religious leaders have been seized, places of worship closed and equipment and literature confiscated. Forum 18 also reported the torture of some religious leaders.
“Russian officials told local church members in Lysychansk that the military administration has banned all Baptists, Pentecostals and Adventists as extremists,” said Eduard Nosachov, who was pastor of the largest Protestant church in Lysychansk, in the Luhansk Region.
In July, Russian forces seized the church, which they now use for city administration.