20 Dec 2018 17:45

U.S. support for schism in Ukraine is 'beyond all reason' - Putin

MOSCOW. Dec 20 (Interfax) - Washington's interference in the situation surrounding the Ukrainian church is unacceptable, Russian President Vladimir Putin says.

"The fact that the [U.S.] secretary of state called Kyiv about this matter, discussed this issue, is beyond all reason, is absolutely unacceptable. Nevertheless, it is happening," Putin said at his annual press conference on Thursday.

"All of this is further proof that this is also being done before the electoral campaign and for the purpose of further dividing the peoples of Ukraine and Russia," he said.

"There are political underpinnings in this," Putin said.

"There is nothing good in this for religious freedom in general, it's a clear violation of religious freedoms," he said.

What concerns him the most is "that the redistribution of property is definitely behind all of this," Putin said.

"In fact, this is essentially already taking place. It may become extremely severe, even bloody. God help us, this won't happen, I would not like it to happen. I just pity the people who are protecting their interests. They are defenseless and unarmed. As a rule, they are elderly people, women," Putin said.

"What is happening in the Orthodox world [in Ukraine] just boggles the mind, as they say. This is direct state interference in church and religious affairs. Nothing of the sort has happened since Soviet times," he said.

Ukraine has now "set up this unified schismatic church of the Istanbul parish," Putin said.

"They didn't like the Moscow parish, so there'll be the Istanbul parish," he said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced the creation of the local autocephalous Orthodox church on December 5. Epifaniy (Dumenko) was elected its head, with the title Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is expected to give him a tomos on autocephaly on January 6, 2019.

The Russian Orthodox Church has called the unification assembly canonically invalid.