ISTANBUL – The Ukrainian president has met the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople while some Ukrainian clerics are preparing to break ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

President Petro Poroshenko and Patriarch Bartholomew I spoke in Istanbul on Saturday, weeks after the decision of the Patriarchate of October 11 to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Russia in turn broke ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Poroshenko thanked the Patriarch, the "first equal" in the Orthodox world, for supporting the independence of the Ukrainian Church.

The Ukrainian church was under the Russian Orthodox Church since 1686. Ukrainian clerics are now forced to meet on the side of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church or remain under Russian influence, as fighting in eastern Ukraine between the government and Russian-backed Russia remains rebels

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