Moscow, January 16, Interfax - The establishment of the "Orthodox Church of Ukraine" is a purely political project aimed at sowing not only ethnic but also religious discord between Russians and Ukrainians, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"The new church entity is an entirely political, secular project. Its main aim is to divide the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, sowing seeds of ethnic as well as religious discord," Putin said in an interview with the Serbian newspapers Politika and Vecernje Novosti ahead of his visit to Serbia.
The English-language version of the interview is available on the Kremlin's official website.
The establishment of the new religious entity in Ukraine is nothing but an attempt "to legalize the schismatic communities that exist in Ukraine under the jurisdiction of Istanbul, which is a major violation of Orthodox canons. Yet, hardly anyone in the U.S. or in the Ukrainian leadership worries about this," Putin said.
"Once again, this has nothing to do with spiritual life; we are dealing here with dangerous and irresponsible politicking," he said.
There are no grounds for talking about the Orthodox Church of Ukraine's independence, Putin said.
"It is de facto fully controlled by Istanbul. Whereas Ukraine's largest canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has never requested autocephaly from Patriarch Bartholomew, is absolutely independent in its actions," he said.
"Its connection with the Russian Orthodox Church is purely canonical - but even this causes undisguised irritation of the current Kiev regime," Putin said.
"Because of this, clergymen and laymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are being persecuted and deprived of churches and monasteries, and attempts are made to deny the Church its legitimate name, which raises tensions and only leads to further discord in Ukrainian society," he said.