Forty-six percent of those polled said they do not believe in God, 45 percent are Orthodox, and 2 percent are Moslem, according to the survey by the Russian Center for Public Opinion Research. Less than one-fifth of one percent said they are Catholic. About 31 percent of those surveyed said they have always believed in God, 13 percent said they had abandoned professed atheism to become believers, 26 percent said they had never believed in God, and 2 percent said they had once believed and lost their faith.
Ninety-six percent of respondents said they had been baptized -- 83 percent as small children and 13 percent by choice when they were older. The poll of 2,400 people had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
At the same time a high-level meeting between representatives of the Holy See and of the Russian Orthodox Church has confirmed that tensions in Ukraine remain a stumbling-block for ecumenical progress between the two bodies.
Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, led a Vatican delegation to talks in Moscow this week. The Orthodox group was headed by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk.
The Vatican offered no major comments on the discussions, although one highly placed official said "there is nothing new." The Moscow Patriarchate issued a statement indicating that the two sides had agreed to send a joint mission to Ukraine to study the problem there.
Orthodox spokesmen have complained repeatedly about the activities of Eastern-rite Catholics in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, suppressed under the Communist regime, has emerged with vigor since the fall of the Soviet regime. Orthodox leaders argue that the Ukrainian Catholics are hostile to their Orthodox neighbors, and impede ecumenism by seeking to gain converts from the Orthodox faith.