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Ukrainian Parliament Adopts Law On Religious Communities' Affiliation

Filaret, the leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate

KYIV -- The Ukrainian parliament has adopted a bill setting the procedure for changing the affiliation of religious communities in the country.

The January 17 vote in the Verkhovna Rada comes amid tension over the creation of an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Earlier this year, the church was formally granted independence, or autocephaly, despite fierce opposition from Moscow.

A total of 229 Ukrainian lawmakers voted in favor of the amendment to the law on freedom of conscience and religious organizations, while 35 voted against it, and two abstained.

Under the proposed legislation, religious congregations will be able to vote to choose what teaching or branch they belong to.

The bill will become law once published in the official gazette.

A Ukrainian church linked with Russia, the Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, has said that by the end of 2018 it had 12,092 parishes across Ukraine.

Efforts by Ukrainians to establish an independent church intensified after Russia seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and began supporting separatists shortly thereafter in parts of Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.