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Ukraine Orthodox priests to establish independent church

Ukrainian Orthodox priests arrived in Kiev on Saturday for a historic council to create a new national church - a move condemned as schism by Russia.

This comes after the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodoxy, recognised the independence of the Ukrainian Church from Moscow.

In protest,

It also fears that its churches in Ukraine could be seized.

Despite Russia banning priests from the branch of the Church loyal to Moscow from the event, two of its bishops were reportedly seen arriving for the council in Kiev.

President Petro Poroshenko also came as an honorary guest, reportedly asking crowds outside to "stand and pray for a Ukrainian church to be created today".

It will be held in the ancient St Sophia's Cathedral - one of Kiev's best known landmarks.

Ukrainian clerics of different Orthodox denominations - including some bishops from the Moscow branch - will be electing a leader of a new church.

Ahead of the meeting, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called on religious and world leaders to protect believers and clergymen in Ukraine from what he called persecution.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has been under the Moscow Patriarchate for centuries.