KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian police searched the homes of Russian Orthodox priests and Russian Orthodox churches in several cities Monday, stepping up pressure as Kiev pushes for the creation of an independent Ukrainian church.

The eight searches in Ukraine’s capital and the nearby Zhytomyr region were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to a police statement.

The Russian Orthodox Church said Sunday that more than 20 Orthodox priests had been summoned for questioning by Ukraine’s SBU security service. One priest who has drawn particular attention is the head of Kiev’s Pechersk Monastery.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, an Istanbul-based institution that is now claiming to be the center of the global Eastern Orthodox faith, has drafted a charter for an independent Ukrainian church – a move Moscow fiercely opposes.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed Sunday that Orthodox Christians would be free to remain part of the Russian branch of the church following the establishment of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Source: The Republic

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