ter hundreds of years, Ukraine's Orthodox Church officially gained its independence from the Russian Church on Saturday. The spiritual head of Orthodox Christians worldwide, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, formally signed the decree at a ceremony in Istanbul.>>
>> He was joined by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.
This is an event that Ukraine sees as vital to the country's security. Kiev says Moscow backed churches on its soil are a Kremlin tool to spread propaganda. The churches strongly deny this. But it comes after years of deepening divisions between the two countries, and Moscow's seizure of Crimea in 2014.
In November, Ukraine imposed martial law, citing the threat of a full scale invasion, after Russia captured three of its vessels in the Kerch Strait.