Amid Church Rift, Kremlin Vows To ‘Protect Interests’ Of Faithful In Ukraine Timelines: K-RusslandKrieg

The Kremlin has issued a fresh warning following a key step in Kyiv’s quest for an independent church that is recognized by the Orthodox Christian leadership, saying Russia will protect the interests of the faithful in Ukraine if the historic split leads to illegal action or violence.

The October 12 comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, came a day after Ukraine won approval from a synod led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based global spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians, to establish an autocephalous — or independent — church.

The decision is a blow to Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church, whose branch in Ukraine had long been accepted by Bartholomew as the legitimate church there. Russian politicians and church officials have repeatedly said they fear a Ukrainian church would seek to take over property controlled by the Moscow-affiliated Orthodox Christian Church in Ukraine.

“Russia’s secular authorities surely cannot interfere” in church matters, but Putin’s government is paying close attention to the situation and will take “exclusively political and diplomatic” measures to protect people against violence or illegal actions, Peskov said. “Russia, of course, as it defends the interests of Russians and Russian-speakers, as Putin has always said, in the same way…defends the interests of the Orthodox Christians,” he said.

“This is if the Ukrainian authorities are unable to keep the situation within legal bounds, if it takes some ugly, violent turn,” Peskov said.