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Ukraine moves Christmas date in snub to Russia

Published July 28,2023
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (REUTERS file photo)

Ukraine has moved its official Christmas holiday to December 25 in a break with the Russian Orthodox Church which celebrates it on January 7, according to legislation passed on Friday.

The bill signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky highlights the deepening rift between churches in Kyiv and Moscow since Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

"The relentless and successful struggle for their identity contributes to... the desire of every Ukrainian to live their own life with their own traditions and holidays," according to an explanatory note to the bill on the parliament's website.

The purpose of the law was to "abandon the Russian heritage of imposing Christmas celebrations on January 7", the note said.

Ukraine had been under Moscow's spiritual leadership since at least the 17th century but part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke with Moscow in 2019 over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the east of their country.

The Russia-backed branch of Ukraine's Orthodox Church also said it had severed ties with Moscow in May 2022.

The decision to move Christmas is the latest in a series of steps taken by Ukraine in recent years to distance itself from Moscow, such as renaming streets and towns named after Soviet figures.