The head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church asked the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday to help achieve the liberation of northern Cyprus from Turkish occupation, the result of a 1974 invasion that he likened to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

"The pious Cypriot people look in hope to the sister Church of Russia, which you have headed by the grace of God, in the expectation that you will continue to help them in their struggle for the liberation of their occupied territories and the restoration of human rights that they have been waging for 38 years," Archbishop Chrysostomos II said in addressing the head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, during a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Church.

Chrysostomos asked Kirill to bring to the attention of the Russian government and people, the Cypriots' "burning desire for freedom, justice and respect for human rights."

Chrysostomos credited the Russian Church with helping Cyprus on repeated occasions. He cited a Russian veto on an attempt in the UN Security Council to "force the plan of Kofi Annan" on Cyprus. Moscow took the step in response to a request from the Cypriot Church.

"This made it possible to evade Annan's plan, which would have been devastating for Cyprus, and to rescue our statehood," Chrysostomos said.

In 1974, Cyprus fell victim to "a barbaric invasion that has continued to this day, an invasion similar to the Nazi invasion that your country experienced in 1941," he said.

"By force of arms, Turkey occupied 38% of our territory, forcibly drove the Christian population from their family homes and launched a policy of ethnic cleansing. They plundered our church treasures. In a barbaric and criminal way, they even ripped mosaics and frescoes off the walls and sold them abroad," the archbishop said.

Cyprus achieved independence from Britain in 1960, proclaimed itself a republic and elected Archbishop Makarios III, head of the Cypriot Church, as its first president.

As a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion, more than 133 churches, chapels and monasteries were desecrated, 78 churches were turned into mosques, and more than 15,000 icons were stolen.