Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday said the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate’s decision to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was a “provocation” backed by Washington.

He described the move as “provocation by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, undertaken with direct public support from Washington” during a media interview, according to a transcript of the exchange on the foreign ministry’s website.

“Interfering in Church life is forbidden by law in Ukraine, in Russia and, I hope, in any normal state,” he said.

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