Moscow, January 31, Interfax - The Ukrainian leadership is exploiting religion in its struggle for power, and Russia is not meddling in the situation but reserves the right to respond to human rights violations in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
Speaking at a ceremony on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Patriarch Kirill's enthronement on Thursday, Putin said fraternal inter-church relations have historically helped bring nations together and served to develop Russia's equitable relations with many foreign countries.
"But, unfortunately, we also see other examples, when profiteering, politicking, and parasitizing on religious matters divides people and provokes anger and intolerance. This is precisely the kind of project, with no connection to faith, totally false and focused on the struggle for power, that is being implemented in Ukraine these days," he said.
Putin said he regretted that Constantinople was drawn into the church schism in Ukraine. "It is sad that the Constantinople Patriarchate has been dragged into this. In fact, blatant interference in church affairs is taking place. It looks like its initiators were taught by last century's atheists, who banished believers from churches and ostracized and persecuted clerics," Putin said.
The Russian authorities "consider any interference in church affairs absolutely unacceptable," Putin said.
"We have respected and will respect the independence of church affairs, especially in a neighboring sovereign country. And yet we reserve the right to respond and do all we can to protect human rights, including the right to freedom of religion," he said.