Kiev: The head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church today accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being possessed by Satan -- a comment certain to outrage tens of millions of faithful in both countries.
Patriarch Filaret issued a statement accusing the Russian leader of trying to "incite bloodshed and killings" in eastern Ukraine where pro-Moscow rebels have been waging a bloody five-month campaign to establish their own state.
Putin "himself tells obvious outward lies: while organising and sending mercenary killers to our countries, he talks about an 'internal conflict' in which he is allegedly not involved," said the leader of the Kiev-based patriarchy -- one of four main Christian faiths in Ukraine.
The patriarch added that Ukrainians had repeatedly called on Putin "and his accomplices to come to their senses, stop sowing evil and death, and repent".
"But it seems that he remains deaf to these calls and only multiplies evil because he, like Judas Iscariot, has become possessed by Satan."
About 15 percent of Ukrainians are believed to be members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Its much larger Moscow-based counterpart has direct ties to the Russian Orthodox Church led by Patriarch Kirill -- a close Putin ally who plays an increasingly visible role in politics.
Kirill was forced to cancel his attendance at the July funeral of the former leader of the Moscow-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church because of the embarrassment of facing potential protests by those who accuse Russia of interfering in Ukrainian affairs.