KYIV (Reuters) - A branch of Ukraine's Orthodox Church that remained loyal to Moscow after a 2019 schism has said it will break with the Russian church over the country's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine was given permission by the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide to form a church independent of Moscow in 2019, largely ending centuries of religious ties between the two countries.
However many parishes, especially in Ukraine's east, elected to remain loyal under the umbrella of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate.
Following a meeting of of its leadership the church announced that it would declare its "full independence" from Russia.
"The council has approved the corresponding additions and changes to the Statute on the Management of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, indicating the full autonomy and independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," it said in a statement late on Friday.
The statement condemned Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and the support of Patriarch Kirill, the head of Russia’s church, for what Moscow calls its "special military operation" to combat anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine says the full-scale invasion was entirely unprovoked.
A 2020 survey by the Kyiv-based Razumkov Centre found that 34% of Ukrainians identified as members of the main Orthodox Church of Ukraine, while 14% were members of Ukraine’s Moscow Patriarchate Church.
Ahead of Friday's decision, more than 400 parishes had left the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate in the aftermath of the invasion.
(Reporting by Max Hunder and Conor Humphries)