Church Tensions Aggravated By Ukraine's Seizure of Video

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have again spilled over into religious affairs, as the Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday accused Ukrainian officials of stifling freedom of speech and covering up an imminent schism within the church.

Following a seizure of several videotapes belonging to a reporter from Moscow's TV Center channel, the Moscow Patriarchate said the move "causes great concern," Interfax reported Sunday.

"Apparently, there are representatives of the Ukrainian authorities who do not shy away from gross violations of freedom of speech to achieve the goal they have been set: to conceal from people the truth about the schism for the sake of creating some sort of new 'single, local' church," Nikolai Balashov, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate told Interfax Religion.

There are a number of Orthodox groupings in Ukraine, with one remaining part of the Moscow Patriarchate and the largest split off into the Kiev Patriarchate. The Kiev Patriarchate is not recognized by any of the world's other Orthodox churches.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has talked of establishing one national patriarchate, separate from Moscow, talk that has threatened to further split Orthodox Christians in the country.

A reporter for TV Center's Postscriptum program shot footage for a report about a possible further split within the church in Ukraine, and Ukrainian customs officials seized "three or four tapes" with the footage at the Borispol airport Thursday evening, Poscriptum's anchor, Alexei Pushkov, told Interfax.

Pushkov described the move as "the start of an information war against Russia," and in line with moves like barring Mayor Yury Luzhkov from traveling to Ukraine.

In May, Luzhkov, whose government owns TV Center, was barred from returning after he made comments in Sevastopol that the city should be ceded back to Russia. Russia holds a lease on the port until 2017.