04/08/2014, 00.00
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The Ukrainian Orthodox Church urges Putin to prevent war and the country's division

by Nina Achmatova
Metropolitan Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate talks about a message personally written by the Church's pro temp head Onufry to the Russian president. As Kyiv launches an anti-terrorist operation against pro-Russian groups in the east, Russia warns against "civil war."

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Tensions are rising in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian Special Forces have cleared some institutional buildings occupied for days by pro-Russian separatists.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of plotting to carry out a Crimea-style invasion of Ukraine's eastern border regions. At the same time, the United States has called on Vladimir Putin and his administration to "put an end to attempts to destabilise the Ukraine."

Against this background, Ukraine's pro-Moscow Patriarchate Orthodox Church has directly reached out the Russian president in order to prevent Ukraine's division.

Onufry, metropolitan of Chernovtsy and Bukovina and pro temp head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, "personally wrote a letter to Putin, with an appeal to avoid breaking the Ukrainian state and [causing] an armed conflict between our two peoples," this according to the Metropolitan Antony of Boryspil and Brovary, who said, "We believe we can still avoid war".

Meanwhile, priests from his Church are collecting food, medicines and other basic necessities for the Ukrainian army. "It is not only our duty as citizens, but also as Christians," he explained.

According Metropolitan Antony, Moscow Patriarch Kirill "is doing everything to prevent bloodshed between brotherly peoples." Onufry himself appealed to the Russian Orthodox primate to use his authority to restore peace.

The situation, however, faces a worrying escalation, with Russia's Foreign Ministry talking about a possible "civil war" in the former Soviet republic, if repression against separatists in the east continues.

In fact, overnight on 7-8 April, Ukrainian Special Forces forced out the separatists who in recent days had taken control of important public buildings in some cities in eastern Ukraine, on the border with Russia.

In cities like Kharkov, Lugansk and Donetsk, pro-Russia groups proclaimed their region's independence, setting up a "People's Republic" and demanding a referendum on secession from Ukraine.

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