PATRIARCH KIRILL of Moscow has urged the Russian armed forces to continue their “war of defence” in Ukraine, as Russia’s traditional Victory Day, on Tuesday, was marked by a fresh barrage of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities.
“We are called to defend our country, and this alone should mobilise our spirit and strengthen love for our fatherland, making us fearless, strong, and capable like our ancestors,” the Patriarch told soldiers during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kremlin Wall, in Moscow.
“Russia is one of the truly independent countries, and our armed forces must be invincible, so that we do not depend on anyone, remain free, and can arrange our lives according to our people’s will.”
The Russian Orthodox leader issued the appeal before joining President Putin and heads of state from Belarus and the Central Asian republics at the annual Victory Day parade in Red Square near by.
His Church had also “set an example of selfless devotion”, he said, by calling on Christians to defend Russia from attack in the 1940s, despite being persecuted at the time by the Communist regime. “We know what an important role the Russian Orthodox Church played in mobilising the spiritual forces of our fatherland, in patriotic education of both army and people.
“Our prayer today is for our fatherland’s prosperity, for our President, the authorities, army, and whole people, so the Lord will help keep us all in unanimity.”
The Victory Day parade, which was reduced in scale to 8000 troops and about 100 military vehicles, coincided with a visit to Kyiv by the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, amid a wave of Russian missile strikes.
In his speech, President Putin said that a “real war” had “once again been unleashed” against Russia, placing civilisation at a new “decisive turning point”, as “Western globalist elites” sowed “hatred, Russophobia, and aggressive nationalism”, destroying “traditional family values that make a person a person”.
The whole of society, he said, was praying for soldiers on the front line of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, on whom Russia’s future security and statehood depended.
“Their goal is nothing new: to achieve the collapse and destruction of our country, cross out the results of the Second World War, and finally break the system of global security and international law,” the Russian President said.
“This is precisely the reason for the catastrophe experienced by the Ukrainian people, who became hostages to a criminal regime’s coup d’état, developed by its Western masters as a bargaining chip in their cruel, selfish plans.”
On Tuesday, the US Administration announced a new $1.2-billion military aid package to bolster Kyiv’s air defences and ammunition supplies ahead of an expected counter-offensive.
Ukrainian officials said that Russian forces were forcibly evacuating civilians from the partially occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, and had destroyed a landmark Orthodox church in the besieged town of Bakhmut with tank shells.
Preaching on Tuesday, the Primate of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church (OCU), Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), said that Bakhmut had become “a city-symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people”. He said that “even the most modern weapons” would have little effect “in the hands of weak-minded people”.
“Our neighbours call themselves Christians while killing their neighbours; but how can Christianity call a murderous war holy?” the Metropolitan asked a congregation in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Novovolynsk.
“We do not aspire to live in the so-called Russian world because its ideology has brought destruction to our country. We wish to live in our Ukrainian world, since we are a separate people, a separate state, and will be masters in our own home.”
In a Victory Day message to President Putin, Patriarch Kirill said that he was gratified that Russia’s feat of self-defence during the Second World War continued “to inspire our fellow-citizens to new achievements”, and that his Church would continue “educating the younger generation in love for the motherland, and fidelity to traditional spiritual and moral values”.
Handing out icons to soldiers at a weekend service in Moscow, he said that Russia would remain “an island of freedom”, and announced a nationwide campaign of “prayers for victory” against Ukraine, until September.