Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of "the most serious consequences" over splits in the Orthodox Church after the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople earlier this month announced the decision to proceed to recognize Ukraine's request for an autocephalous church.
The October 11 announcement by Bartholomew, who is considered the leader of the 300-million-strong worldwide Orthodox community, came amid a deepening dispute over the Ukrainian church’s bid to formally break away from Russia’s orbit.
It also prompted the Russian Orthodox Church to announce four days later that it was ending its relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in protest.
"I want to stress one thing: Political maneuvering in this sensitive area will always lead to the most serious of consequences, especially for those who do it," Putin said, in his first public comments following the Russian Orthodox Church cutting ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
"Our common duty, above all for the people, is to preserve spiritual and historical unity," Putin said at a forum gathering representatives of the Russian diaspora in Moscow on October 31.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople's move has also added to tensions between Kyiv and Moscow, already high since Russia's 2014 seizure of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists.