Putin attends the Orthodox Christmas service in the Kremlin alone by Reuters

Putin attends the Orthodox Christmas service in the Kremlin alone by Reuters

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©Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls David Shmelev of the Stavropol region, a 7-year-old participant in a New Year’s and Christmas charity event, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, January 5, 2023. Sputnik/Mikha

By David Ljunggren

(Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an Orthodox Church Christmas service at a Kremlin cathedral alone on Saturday rather than join other worshipers in a public celebration.

Russia’s RIA news agency said it was the first time in years that Putin had celebrated Christmas in Moscow and not in the capital’s region.

State television showed two live clips of Putin inside the gilded Annunciation Cathedral while Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service known as the Divine Liturgy.

Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6th and 7th.

Wearing a blue jacket and a high-necked white sweater, Putin was the sole worshiper and crossed himself several times before televising a public service at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior cut off.

Putin, who celebrated Easter with thousands of others at the cathedral last year, also attended Christmas alone last year at his official residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow. In 2021 he took part in a public Divine Liturgy in Novgorod.

The Russian Orthodox Church supports the war in Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Thursday called on both sides to honor a 36-hour ceasefire announced by Putin by Christmas.

In a divine liturgy service on Friday, Kirill criticized Ukraine for cracking down on a branch of the Orthodox Church with long-standing ties to Moscow.

Ukraine’s security service searched church property and last month accused a high-ranking cleric of engaging in anti-Ukrainian activities by supporting Russian policies.

“Let us pray for our brothers and sisters and believe that one day these devilish temptations will subside,” Kirill said, deriding what he called “the pathetic attempts” of Kiev to destroy the church in Ukraine.

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