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Ukrainian Police Search Moscow-Aligned Orthodox Churches, Homes Of Priests

St. Michael's golden-domed monastery in Kyiv is owned by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Ukrainian police have searched several churches affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the homes of priests, amid growing tensions over the fate of Ukraine's competing Orthodox communities.

The searches in Kyiv and the nearby Zhytomyr region on December 3 were part of a criminal investigation into inciting hatred and violence, according to a statement by Ukraine's main security service, the SBU.

A police spokeswoman told AFP that security services were searching homes of priests who are loyal to the Russian branch of the Orthodox Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church said the day before that more than 20 priests had been summoned for questioning by the SBU.

The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose leader is considered "first among equals" in Orthodox Christianity, has moved to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church independence from oversight by the Russian church in Moscow.

The Russian church has vehemently opposed the move and announced it would break ties in protest.

Tensions have been building amid questions over ownership to churches, monasteries, and historic properties.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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