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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Orthodox Christmas service at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 7, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin praised “church organisations” for supporting Russian soldiers taking part in what he called a special military operation, without mentioning Ukraine by name in a message for the Orthodox Christmas holiday.

The Russian leader wished Orthodox Christians and other Russians who celebrate the holiday “health, success and all the best” in an address published on the Kremlin website.

Putin attended a service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Kremlin on Friday night. Putin stood alone at the midnight service at the church.

He stood alone as Orthodox priests in golden robes conducted a ceremony holding long candles, pictures released by the Kremlin showed.

In previous years Putin usually attended Orthodox Christmas services in Russian provinces or just outside Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church observes Christmas on January 7.

In a message released by the Kremlin on Saturday, Putin congratulated Orthodox Christians, saying the holiday inspired “good deeds and aspirations.”

He also praised the Orthodox Church, whose influential head Patriarch Kirill has fully backed Putin’s offensive in Ukraine.

“Such great, multifaceted, truly ascetic work deserves the most sincere respect,” he added.

Patriarch Kirill has called on believers to support pro-Russian “brothers” during Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine.

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

On February 24 last year, Putin sent troops to Ukraine, saying the fellow Orthodox Christian country needed to be “demilitarised.”