The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has deplored northern Cyprus being under Turkish control and complained about "discrimination against Orthodox believers in the zone of occupation."

"For 38 long years, the Russian Orthodox Church has warmly empathized with the Cypriot Church and her people due to a wound that remains unhealed - the forcible division of the island into two parts and discrimination against Orthodox believers in the zone of occupation," Patriarch Kirill said in addressing the Primate of the Cypriot Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, during a meeting of the Holy Synod in Nicosia.

Despite "sadness over Christian holy sites in the northern part of the island being destroyed or desecrated and the ongoing violations of the religious rights of the Orthodox population, the Cypriot Church is developing actively," Patriarch Kirill said.

"It was with joy that we have received the news about the increase in the number of dioceses in the Cypriot Church, which enables it to solve its daily problems," he said.

The Patriarch credited Chrysostomos II with what he claimed had been closer interaction recently between Orthodox Churches in the Middle East and North Africa in the face of "threats to the existence of our brothers in what have perennially been Christian territories."

Patriarch Kirill said he felt it to be his duty to express support for the Cypriot Church "in this time of trials, to raise my voice in defense of Christian holy sites, and to discuss joint moves to preserve Christianity in the region."

He praised Cyprus for hosting many Russians who left their country during economic and political upheavals in it, and credited the island with having always been a special destination for Orthodox pilgrimage.