Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at meeting with cultural advisers in St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 15, 2018. Alarmed by the growing popularity of rap among Russian youth, Putin wants cultural leaders to devise a means of controlling popular mu
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at meeting with cultural advisers in St. Petersburg, Russia, Dec. 15, 2018. Alarmed by the growing popularity of rap among Russian youth, Putin wants cultural leaders to devise a means of controlling popular mu

MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the creation of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of Moscow at his annual press conference on Thursday, saying it violated religious freedoms and drove a wedge between the nations.

Orthodox bishops created the new Ukrainian church at a historic synod in Kyiv on Saturday, ending more than 300 years of Moscow domination. The decision was welcomed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the United States.

But Putin slammed the decision as a "blatant breach of religious freedoms".

Also on Thursday, Ukraine's parliament passed a law that obliges the Moscow-backed branch of the country's Orthodox Church to mention its allegiance in its name.

A new head of independent Ukrainian church Metropolitan of Kyiv Epiphanius greets people gathered to support independent Ukrainian church near the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Dec. 15, 2018.
New Ukrainian Orthodox Leader Gives 1st Liturgy, Urges Unity
In his first liturgy as head of the newly christened Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphanius called for Ukrainians to unite under the new church and pray for peace in Ukraine. Ukrainian bishops met Saturday and voted to approve a charter for the new church and elect a leader. Moscow has vigorously protested Ukraine's bid for spiritual independence, because since the late 1600s, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine had been a wing of the Russian Orthodox Church. Epiphanius on Sunday says “we…

A physical fight broke out in the chamber after the bill passed, and one lawmaker ripped down a poster of a pro-Russia politician.

The Church's creation came after a landmark decision by Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I to recognize Ukraine's independence from the Russian Orthodox Church.

The ruling in October sparked fury in Moscow, which has overseen the Ukrainian branch of Orthodoxy for the last 332 years. It led the Russian Orthodox Church to cut all ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Putin on Thursday suggested that Bartholomew's "main motive" was to "subjugate" Ukraine.

"It is also done with the aim of a further split between the peoples of Ukraine and Russia," he said.

Putin also warned the decision would lead to a redistribution of Church property that could be "bloody".