Putin hailed the Russian Orthodox Church as an important unifying force in the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
In an Orthodox Christmas message intended to unite people behind his vision of a modern Russia, President Vladimir Putin on Saturday praised the Russian Orthodox Church for supporting Moscow’s forces fighting in Ukraine.
After Putin attended an individual Orthodox Christmas Eve service in a Kremlin cathedral rather than attending a public celebration, the Kremlin issued the message.
Putin made it clear in his message that he saw the Russian Orthodox Church as a significant stabilizing force for society at a time when he has portrayed a historical conflict between Russia and the West over Ukraine and other issues. The image of him standing in front of religious icons was included on the Kremlin website.
Putin’s message of praise for the holidays
“It is deeply gratifying to note the enormous constructive contribution of the Russian Orthodox Church and other Christian denominations in unifying society, preserving our historical memory, educating youth and strengthening the institution of family,” said Putin. Church organizations prioritize … supporting our warriors taking part in the special military operation (in Ukraine). Such massive, complex and truly selfless work deserves sincere respect.”
Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged artillery fire after Putin announced a 36-hour ceasefire for the celebrations on Friday, but Kyiv rejected it as Moscow’s ploy to buy time and regroup.
The Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Moscow’s war in Ukraine has enraged many Ukrainian Orthodox believers and splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church, though many Orthodox Christians observe Christmas on January 7.
About 100 million of the world’s 260 million Orthodox Christians live in Russia, and some of those living abroad are united with Moscow.
However, others strongly disagree, rejecting Moscow’s claim that its February 24 invasion of Ukraine was a necessary preemptive strike to protect its own security and that of Russian speakers there.