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Protests Against Russian Patriarch Quashed In Kyiv

Policemen detaining a member of the Ukrainian nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom) as he intends to take part in a rally to protest against the visit of Russian Patriarch Kirill in Kyiv on July 26.
KYIV -- Eight activists have been arrested in Kyiv for protesting against the visit of Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

The protesters were detained as they tried to stage a play critical of the patriarch near St. Sofia's Cathedral. Patriarch Kirill visited the church earlier in the day, but the Kyiv district court ruled that no demonstrations either in support of or against the patriarch were permitted.

The Ukrainian National Assembly, Ukrainian National Self-Defense, and the Ukrainian People's Party were all previously prevented from demonstrating against Kirill's visit in front of the historic cathedral.

Similar attempts to demonstrate have been suppressed since Kirill began his trip to Ukraine on July 20. A municipal court in Dnipropetrovsk barred the Ukrainian National Party from demonstrating when Kirill visited the city on July 23.

Kirill also met today with members of the Holy Synod -- the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church -- at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. The historic monastery is considered the main center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe.

Patriarch Kirill is a proponent of unifying the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches. However, Ukrainian nationalist groups reject that proposal as political and intended to subordinate Ukraine to Russia.

Some 80 percent of Ukraine's population describe themselves as Orthodox worshippers, and about one-third of those follow the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. The two other main Orthodox Churches in Ukraine are the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate, formed in 1992, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.