Russian Orthodox Church breaks with Constantinople in row over Ukraine, ANDREI MAKHOVSKY

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

Kiev Pechersk Lavra

The move comes following the announcement of the Constantinople Patriarchate on Thursday that it would proceed to the granting independence to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is now split into three major churches - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of Moscow Patriarchate, the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP), which was created after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Earlier, the spokesman for Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said that the Russian Orthodox Church will issue a tough response to the decision of the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate to grant independence to the Ukrainian Church.

Ukraine now has three Orthodox communities - one answering to the Russian Orthodox Church and two schismatic churches.

Moscow rejects the independence of the Ukrainian Church.

Constantinople recently recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Church from the Moscow Patriarchate.

Speaking at a press conference last Thursday, Ukraine's President Poroshenko dubbed the decision a "historic event" and a "victory of good over evil".

"A decision was taken to completely sever ties", Metropolitan Ilarion told reporters in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, announcing Russian retaliation against Constantinople.

The split is seen to have a deep political significance.

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"This is the collapse of Moscow's centuries-old claims for global domination as the Third Rome", he said.

The two Ukrainian churches spearheaded by Filaret and Makariy - both of whom were in attendance at the mass prayer - are now considered part of the Constantinople Church and not as part of the Russian Church anymore.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk went on to note that the Russian Orthodox Church expressed hope that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would keep his promise not to persecute believers of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The move comes days after the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate chose to eventually grant the so-called autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thus making the clerical organization, which earlier enjoyed a broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, fully independent.

The tussle over Ukraine's spiritual future flows from the poisoning of relations between Kiev and Moscow after Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of separatist fighting in Ukraine's east that has killed over 10,000 people.

Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian writer and director at Internews Ukraine, said the move could create divisions in and beyond Ukraine. "This could increase tensions, even though the whole idea was to end schism in Ukraine, by recognising those who are not willing to be under the Russian Church".

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Monday it had made a decision to sever all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an "autocephalous", or independent, church.

Many analysts, such as Jakub Junda, a director at the Prague-based think-tank, European Values, consider the Russian Orthodox Church a tool for spreading Russia's influence, and "entails the promotion of Russian nationalist and imperialist ambitions".

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