The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church is offering to mediate peace talks in Ukraine after brokering the release of European monitors held by separatists.
“The Russian Orthodox Church is ready to be a mediator between the conflicting sides in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill’s spokesman, Alexander Volkov, said in an interview in Moscow today. ‘‘We have a good precedent now and we can develop this success.’’
The European Union today gave Russia three days to stop the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine or face deeper sanctions as the government in Kiev said it would extend a cease-fire due to expire tonight for another 72 hours.
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Pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Borodai said today that he had freed four observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe held for 32 days after the intervention of the Russian patriarch. Another four OSCE monitors remain missing.
‘‘We freed them unconditionally, we hope the world community will understand us,’’ Borodai said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.
Patriarch Kirill, who has followers across Ukraine, appointed Metropolitan Merkury to be a mediator for the OSCE monitors’ release, because he knows the situation in the region well, according to his spokesman. Most Ukrainians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, with the community split between allegiances to the Moscow and Kiev patriarchs.
‘‘The Russian Orthodox Church has faithful on both sides of the conflict and it distances itself from any political forces; that’s why its mediating mission can be successful,” Volkov said.
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