The Femen group of female Ukrainian protesters, with a flair for topless stunts, have attempted to attack the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill as he arrived at Kiev’s airport on Thursday, but were swooped on by security.
An activist rushed towards the patriarch in the Kiev’s airport with bared breasts, yelling “Get out!” but security guards stopped the woman.
“Regrettably, people are trying to mar the Patriarch’s visit to Ukraine through these stunts,” the head of the patriarch’s press service, Deacon Alexander Volkov, said, adding that such incidents signal “a deep spiritual crisis in some social circles.”
Shortly after the incident, Femen said in a statement that their attack on the 65-year-old patriarch was in protest against what they called his political support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the continued custody of Pussy Riot suspects.
Three women from the all-female punk group have been in a Moscow pre-trial detention center since March as they await trial over an anti-Putin protest in the Russian capital’s largest cathedral. They face seven years behind bars if convicted on hooliganism charges.
The Patriarch arrived in Kiev on Thursday to start his three-day pastoral visit to Ukraine which will feature festive liturgies marking the Baptism of Rus Day, a holiday shared by both Russia and Ukraine.
At about the same time several dozen Ukrainian nationals have gathered near the presidential administration’s headquarters to protest against Patriarch’s visit. The participants of the rally are holding banners, reading: “Down with Moscow colonialist priest!,” “For the united Orthodox Church centered in Kiev!,” and “Down with Moscow occupants!”
The head of the Svoboda nationalist party, Andrei Ilyenko said that the Patriarch’s visits “split Ukraine.”
The Orthodox Church in Ukraine split in the 1990s following the breakup of the Soviet Union into followers of the Moscow Patriarchate and those seeking an independent church. The Ukrainian Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized worldwide, while the other churches are not.