Orthodox Church Heads In Ukraine, Russia Send Conflicting Easter Messages

A self-proclaimed Donetsk republic flag. Pro-Russian activists refuse to leave occupied buildings.
A self-proclaimed Donetsk republic flag. Pro-Russian activists refuse to leave occupied buildings.

Orthodox Easter messages from patriarchs in Kiev and Moscow have highlighted the deep division in Ukraine, where a tense stand-off is continuing in the east.

The head of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church Patriarch Filaret accused Russia of “aggression” and “evil”.

Russian Church Patriarch Kirill asked God to end the designs of those who wanted to rip apart Russia and Ukraine.

Pro-Russian activists in the east continue to occupy government offices.

Meanwhile Russia media are reporting several deaths in a gunbattle near the eastern town of Sloviansk.

TV pictures showed what was described as the aftermath of an attack on a pro-Russian checkpoint at about 01:00 local time (22:00 on Saturday GMT), including the body of a man under a cover.

The BBC is unable to verify the footage, and it is not clear how many people were killed and injured in the incident. A Reuters journalist at the scene reported seeing two bodies in a truck.

The Russian foreign ministry blamed the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist Right Sector group for the attack.

“Russia is indignant about this provocation by gunmen, which testifies to the lack of will on the part of the Kiev authorities to rein in and disarm nationalists and extremists,” it said in a statement.

A mediator from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is scheduled to hold talks with pro-Russian activists on Sunday.

Ertogrul Apakan, who heads the special OSCE mission in Kiev, said his deputy would be in Donetsk to try to get them to comply with an agreement reached on Thursday to ease the crisis.

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SOURCE: BBC

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