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Ukrainian Patriarch Calls On EU To Maintain Russia Sanctions

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko meets with Patriarch Filaret in Kyiv on April 18.

BRUSSELS -- Patriarch Filaret, the head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church, has called on the European Union not to treat the conflict in his country's east as Kyiv's internal problem and urged the bloc to maintain sanctions against Moscow.

Speaking on May 2 in the European Parliament in Brussels, Filaret said that despite Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its continued support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine, "the aggressor could not go all the way to conquer the rest of the country."

Filaret was excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate after he broke away his Kyiv Patriarchate in 1992. The Moscow Patriarchate has close ties to the Kremlin.

Filaret said Russia has underestimated the courage of the Ukrainian people, without which Russia would have continued on “to Poland and the Baltics and would not [have stopped even] there." He told lawmakers that Ukraine was "saving Europe."

The patriarch urged the European Parliament to keep up the pressure on Russia by continuing the sanctions regime imposed after the annexation of Crimea.

Since 2014, the EU has imposed asset bans and asset freezes on 150 Russian officials and separatists fighting in Ukraine as well as economic sanctions hitting Russia’s energy and banking sectors.

Sanctions, Filaret said, are “painful for Moscow."

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