Russia vows to defend believers in Ukraine church dispute

MOSCOW/KIEV: Russia vowed on Friday to defend Russian church believers in Ukraine from any illegal activity against them following Kiev’s moves towards a historic split from the Russian Orthodox Church Ukraine wants to establish a national church, free from its traditional ties to Russia, which it says is a vital step to tackling Russian meddling in its affairs. Critics of Ukraine’s plan for an independent church say it could lead to violence and forced takeovers of churches loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church. Ukraine secured approval on Thursday from a synod in Istanbul, seat of the global spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, to establish what is known as an “autocephalous”, or independent, church. The next step is for Ukraine to reunite its various strands of Orthodox faith in that new church, which includes deciding the fate of church buildings and monasteries, some of which are aligned to the Russian Orthodox Church. If there is a need to prevent extremism and religious hatred, it (the ministry) will act rigidly – and let it not come as an unexpected surprise for the ‘hotheads’!

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