The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has led prayers in Moscow for the Russians of Ukraine, condemning those who he said wanted to “destroy Holy Russia”.
“Ukraine is politically a foreign country (but) spiritually and historically that was never the case,” Patriarch Kirill said before the start of observances on the eve of Orthodox Easter at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
“We are a single people before God. We have the same Orthodox faith,” he said.
“We must today pray for the Russian people who live in Ukraine, for the Lord to bring peace to the Ukrainian land … that he brings an end to the designs of those who want to destroy Holy Russia,” Kirill said.
The 67-year-old patriarch said “this has happened many times in history, but no one has ever succeeded”.
He was speaking as a counterpart in Kiev – the Kyivan Patriarch Filaret – labelled Russia an “enemy” whose attack on Ukraine is doomed to fail.
“The country which gave us a guarantee of our territorial integrity has committed an attack. God cannot be on the side of evil, and that is why the enemy of the Ukrainian people is condemned to fail,” Patriarch Filaret said in his paschal homily.
The Eastern Rite in Ukraine is split between the Moscow Patriarchate led by Kirill and the Kyivan Patriarchate led by Filaret.
The Moscow Patriarchate claims several million followers.
This year Easter falls on the same day, Sunday, for both the Eastern and Western rites of Christianity.