"It seems that the Turkish leaders are ready to continue to consistently ignore the global value of the heritage of conquered Byzantium, which they do not understand, and to openly demonstrate a contemptuous indifference to Christian cultural values", Balashov said, adding that Ankara's approach does not contribute to peace and mutual respect between followers of different religions.
The archpriest also said that although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's promised to maintain free access to Hagia Sophia's Christian relics, mosaics and frescoes are constantly covered. Balashov added that women have limited access to the site of the former church, and main cultural relics are not visible to them.
He suggested that the same fate awaits the Chora Church, where many valuable Byzantine-era mosaics and frescoes are being kept. The archpriest added that Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has fully lost influence "at home".
Hagia Sophia, one of the most iconic Byzantine symbols in present-day Turkey, was converted into a mosque in July. Many countries have expressed regrets over Ankara’s decision, while Turkey views the matter as its internal affairs.