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The head of global Orthodox Christianity has decided to grant Ukraine its own church independent of Russia’s patriarchate, in a politically charged move that defies sharp warnings from Moscow.

The decision is a victory for Ukraine in a wider struggle against Russia that encompasses Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its continued support for separatists fighting against Kiev in the east of the country. But it has been condemned by Russian officials, who have warned it threatens to trigger the biggest Christian schism in a millennium.

Thursday’s decision, after a three-day synod chaired by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, granted recognition to the leader of the breakaway church, the first step in a process of attaining independence from the Russian organisation.



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