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‘Inappropriate’ for Pompeo to discuss Ukrainian church affairs with Kiev – Putin

‘Inappropriate’ for Pompeo to discuss Ukrainian church affairs with Kiev – Putin
It’s “inappropriate” for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the creation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with Kiev, Vladimir Putin said, while also accusing Ukraine’s government of interfering with religious affairs.

“The Secretary of State calling Kiev and discussing these issues is absolutely inappropriate, but it happened anyway,” Putin told reporters on Thursday. He added that creating an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church was more about domestic politics than religion.

Pompeo had earlier this week reached out to Epifaniy, the newly elected head of the Kiev-backed church, to congratulate him and “to underscore US support for religious freedom and Ukrainian sovereignty.”

READ MORE: Putin’s 14th annual Q&A marathon as it happened

“What is happening in Orthodoxy is incomprehensible,” he lamented, adding that the Kiev government has been far from impartial when it came to splitting the Ukrainian Church from Moscow.

This is direct meddling into the church and religious life. There hasn’t been anything like that since Soviet times.

Putin said he is equally concerned about church property disputes in Ukraine. “It’s already going on and it can be grave – if not bloody.”

“I feel sorry for the people who stand for their interests, they are defenseless, unarmed, basically, they are the elderly and women.”

Last Saturday, members of the two unrecognized Orthodox churches in Ukraine merged into a new entity called the ‘Orthodox Church of Ukraine’. It falls within the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Patriarchate, but is expected to be granted autonomy next month.

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Shortly afterwards, media reports suggested the Ukrainian Orthodox church loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate now risks having its property seized by force in favor of the newly-established church entity, while its priests may be hit by violent attacks.

President Petro Poroshenko called on radically-minded Ukrainians to show restraint. “I want to warn the radicals, who would tomorrow go and seize the churches against doing it. You will not be taking the churches from Moscow, but from the communities.”

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