Ukrainian Christians in the United States and Canada have criticized plans for the official celebration of 1988 as the millennium of Christianity in the Soviet Union as a deliberate attempt to ignore Ukrainians.

In a joint declaration issued in Winnipeg, Metropolitan Maxim of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada and Metropolitan Wasyly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada charged that "the propaganda of the Russian Orthodox Church is not in accordance with historic truth, and is spreading false information in the Western world concerning the ancient history of Kievan Rus," which is present-day Ukraine."

The Ukrainian-Canadian churchmen noted that the Russian Orthodox Church insists that it is the "direct and only heir of the Christian church that existed" in 988, when Prince Vladimir of Kiev was baptized.

By making such claims, they said, the Russian Orthodox Church "helps Russia and the U.S.S.R. in further misappropriating the history of the Ukrainian nation and of the Ukrainian churches, together with their culture and all their spiritual and artistic achievements."

Complaints about the Russian Orthodox Church's efforts to monopolize the millennium observances have also come from the Ukrainian Catholic Dioceses of Stamford, Conn., and St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio.

In a background paper, they noted that the split between Eastern and Western Christianity had not yet occurred in 988, when Prince Vladimir was baptized.

But, it said, "the fact that the Universal Church did not divide until 1054 does not deter the Patriarchate of Moscow from celebrating the millennium under the motto '1,000 years of Orthodoxy' and to proclaim the jubilee year 1988 as 'the Year of Orthodoxy.' "

The existence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church as a separate entity has been illegal in the Soviet Union since 1946, when the government merged it with the Russian Orthodox Church.