Ukraine Church Elects Pro-Russian as Head: Country Leaders Red Faced
By Kalyan Kumar | August 14, 2014 4:28 PM EST
Ukraine was dealt another Russian blow on Wednesday when its dominant church elected a Pro Russia conservative as the head. The action of Ukraine's Russian Orthodox Church has put the state under more pressure, reported AFP.
Pope Francis touches the wall that divides Israel from the West Bank, on his way to celebrate a mass in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem May 25, 2014. Pope Francis made an impassioned plea for peace on a pilgrimage on Sunday to Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, urging an intensified effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The new leader of the church, Metropolitan Onufriy, succeeded Metropolitan Volodymyr, who died in July. Onufriy was the former head of the church in Chernivtsi and Bukovyna, in southwest Ukraine.
Before the voting began, Ukraine appealed the church to unite the country and stop its slide from a pro-Moscow insurgency. The church leaders elected their head after two rounds of voting. The new incumbent received the blessings of the Russian Patriarch Kirill, who is said to be an ardent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Before the voting got underway, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko appealed to the "patriotic potential of the church" and said the election was happening at the most difficult period in Ukraine's history with people undergoing sufferings from external aggression.
Orthodox Christians constitute the largest denomination in Ukraine. But they are split between two Ukrainian Orthodox Churches -- one loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate and the other to Kiev Patriarchate. The former is stronger with more than 11,000 parishes and operates as a semi-autonomous church.
Meanwhile, Ukraine denounced Russia's dispatch of a humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine as an act of unbounded cynicism to serve pro-Russian separatists.
Making an indirect reference to the Russian aid, Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk hit out at Russia at a government meeting and said they first sent tanks, Grad missiles and bandits to fire at Ukrainians, and now they are sending water and salt.
Russia Convoy Advancing
Meanwhile, 12 Ukrainian nationalist fighters were killed on Wednesday when pro-Russia rebels opened fire at the bus they were travelling to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. This was disclosed by military spokesman Artem Skoropadsky, reported Reuters.
The incident brews the suspicions of Kiev and Western capitals that the Russian convoy's entry into Ukrainian soil will worsen things and boost the morale of separatists, who had been losing ground to government forces.
The Russian convoy of 280 heavy trucks on Wednesday reached the southwestern Russian town of Voronezh. There it was stopped at an air base, according to Reuters.
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