Fact Check-Ukrainian church fire from 2021 likely started by electrical fault, according to priest

A 2021 video of a burning church in Ukraine has circulated online with a caption that baselessly claims it was set alight by Ukrainian nationalists.

According to Jan. 11 posts on Facebook (here) and Twitter (here), the video shows a church in the village of Ovadne, in Ukraine’s north-west Volyn region. The posts claim that “Ukrainian nationalists” started the fire after the church rector refused to switch from the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Ukraine has about 30 million Orthodox believers, divided between different church communities. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, now in its 11th month, has led many Ukrainians to rally round the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which they see as more pro-Ukrainian than its rival, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). The UOC was officially under the wing of Russia's Orthodox Church until May 2022 but announced a severing of ties due to the Russian church's support for the war (here ).

There is no evidence that the fire in the video was started because of arson.

Reuters first geolocated the church to Novooleksandrivka, in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, which is nearly 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away from Volyn, where it was claimed by social media users to be (

The church can be seen on Google Street view (here!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAF1QipOvQY7bPonbmrxRwFLzO6lsiJ7jewHc2Y2vnaBn!2e10!7i5120!8i2560 ).

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine said the fire happened on Jan. 19, 2021. No one was hurt in the incident (here ).

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church Dnipropetrovsk Eparchy published a statement at the time with videos and photos of the church (here ).

On Jan. 27, 2021, the church’s priest shared an update from investigators on Facebook, writing: "The fire in the church building ... most likely arose as a result of the work of the electrical network in emergency mode" ( , as linked in an article by the Union of Orthodox Journalists (СПЖ) (here ).


Miscaptioned. The video shows a fire at a church in the Dnipropetrovsk region in 2021. The incident was likely caused by an electrical network problem, according to an update shared by the church’s priest.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.