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BRAMA, August 24, 2000, 7:00am EDT

Protesters demand independence for Ukrainian Orthodox Church

- ©Morgan Williams, 8/24/00
Leaders of the protest are standing in the window of the large building directly across from the main entrance to the Lavra. A Ukrainian priest was standing directly below at the head of the crowds.

Kyiv - Turmoil in the streets greeted residents of Ukraine's capital city today as they prepared to celebrate the 9th year of the country's independence. Several thousand protesters gathered today opposite the Pecherska Lavra monastery complex to voice their objections over attempts to maintain control of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by the Moscow Patriarchate. Demonstrations sparked by the planned sanctification of the newly reconstructed Uspenskiy Cathedral by Russian Orthodox priests started yesterday at the "Palat Ukrainy" and continued today at the Lavra.

A congratulatory statement made by President Kuchma yesterday for the scheduled blessing of the Cathedral fueled the protests. Ukrainian Orthodox Church followers interpret the Presidents remarks as implicit support for the Moscow Patriarchate by the government. The highly charged crowds chanted "Lavra to Ukrainian People", "Kuchma is a Traitor", "Get Moscow Priests Out Of Ukraine", "Shame On Kuchma", "Holy Places To Ukrainian Church."

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