Putin attends an Orthodox Christmas service alone in a Kremlin church

Vladimir Putin attended a religious service celebrated alone in a Kremlin church at midnight on Friday for Orthodox Christmas, marked by the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

The Russian president followed the celebration in the Cathedral of the Annunciation, originally designed as a church for the tsars, led by priests in golden albs, some of whom held candelabra, according to footage released by the Kremlin.

In previous years, Vladimir Putin used to attend religious services for Orthodox Christmas in Russian provinces or on the outskirts of Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7.

In a message released Saturday by the Kremlin, the Russian president sent his congratulations to Orthodox Christians, indicating that this day inspires “good deeds and aspirations”.

He also said he prayed for the Orthodox Church, whose influential leader, Patriarch Kirill, fully supported the offensive of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine decided by Vladimir Putin.

Church organizations “support our soldiers who are taking part in a special military operation,” the Russian president said, using the official Kremlin term for the offensive in Ukraine.

“Such tremendous, multi-faceted, and truly ascetic work deserves the sincerest respect,” he added.

Patriarch Kirill called on believers to support pro-Russian “brothers” during the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. Since the start of the offensive in Ukraine on February 24, he has delivered sermons in which he gave his blessing to the Russian troops while castigating the Ukrainian authorities.

In a sermon last year, he said that dying in Ukraine “washes away all sins”.

The patriarch had called on Thursday Moscow and kyiv to establish a ceasefire in Ukraine on the occasion of the Orthodox Christmas celebration. In the process, Vladimir Putin announced Thursday a unilateral ceasefire for 36 hours.

But artillery duels continued Friday in Bakhmout, the hot spot on the front in eastern Ukraine, as well as shelling in other areas, despite the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire. .

AFP journalists heard shots on the Ukrainian and Russian sides after the start of the ceasefire in this city with largely destroyed and deserted streets, but their intensity was less than in previous days.

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