Kiev, Mar 26 (AFP) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged church leaders to organise Easter services online and proposed patrols around churches to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"The heads of the Churches understand that religious services can be celebrated online," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Easter is one of the most widely celebrated religious festivals in the ex-Soviet country where most identify as Orthodox Christians.

"If a rite requires people's presence, there is a need to limit the number of worshippers," Zelensky said.

Speaking in a video conference with regional officials, he also suggested organising "patrols near churches" to dissuade parishioners from gathering there.

He said Ukrainians should celebrate Easter at home.

Ukraine has two main Orthodox Churches -- one newly independent from Russia and a smaller one loyal to the Moscow Patriarch. There is also the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church which observes Orthodox rites but is loyal to the Vatican. All celebrate Easter on April 19.

The independent Church and the Greek Catholic one have already permitted online services to help fight the virus.

Ukraine, a country of around 40 million, has confirmed 113 cases of the virus, four of whom have died. (AFP)

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