Hemmed in by internal criticism, Putin attended the Orthodox Christmas mass alone at a church inside the Kremlin fortress.

The president of Russia, Vladimir Putinhe attended a religious mass alone on Friday at midnight in a church in the Kremlin to celebrate the orthodox christmasmarked by the Moscow offensive in Ukraine.

Putin attends the Christmas service at the Annunciation Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, January 7, 2023 (AP) (Mikhail Klimentyev /)

The Russian president continued the celebration in the Cathedral of the Annunciation, originally intended as a church for the tsars, officiated by priests, some of whom held chandeliers, according to images released by the Kremlin. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7.

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the Julian calendar (AP) (Mikhail Klimentyev /)

In previous years, Putin used to go to the religious ceremony on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas in the Russian provinces or on the outskirts of Moscow. However, this time He decided to do it in complete solitude within the walls of the Kremlin fortress, cornered by criticism and afraid of exposing himself to public confrontations.

Putin celebrated alone amid strong internal criticism (AP) (Mikhail Klimentyev /)

Russian nationalists and some lawmakers have called for the punishment of military commanders they accuse of ignoring the dangers, as outrage grows over the deaths of at least dozens of Russian soldiers in one of the deadliest attacks of the war in Ukraine.

The Annunciation Cathedral, originally intended as a church for the tsars, is located inside the Kremlin (AP) (Mikhail Klimentyev/)

In a rare revelation, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that 63 soldiers died on New Year’s Eve, in an explosion that destroyed a temporary barracks at a training school in Makiivkatwin city of the regional capital of Donetsk Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine. In turn, kyiv claimed that the Russian death toll in Makiivka was in the hundreds, although pro-Russian regional authorities called this an exaggeration.

Russian critics said that the soldiers were housed next to an ammunition depotwhich according to the Russian Defense Ministry was hit by four rockets fired from US HIMARS systems. Russian military bloggers said the extent of the destruction was due to ammunition storage in the same building as the barracks, despite military commanders knowing it was within range of Ukrainian rockets.

“What happened in Makiivka is horrible,” wrote Archangel Spetznaz Z, a Russian military blogger with more than 700,000 followers on the Telegram messaging app.

Who came up with the idea of ​​placing personnel in large numbers in a building where even a fool understands that even if they hit with artillery, there will be many injured or killed?“, wrote. To the commanders “they don’t give a damn“, he claimed.

The fury in Russia spilled over to its legislators.

Gregory Karasina member of the Russian Senate and former deputy foreign minister, not only demanded revenge against Ukraine and its NATO supporters, but also “a rigorous internal analysis.”

Sergei Mironovlegislator and former president of the Senate, the Russian upper house, demanded criminal responsibilities for the leaders who “allowed the concentration of military personnel in an unprotected building” and for “all higher authorities who did not provide the appropriate level of security.”

Unverified footage posted online of the aftermath of the explosion at Russia’s Makiivka barracks showed a massive building reduced to smoking rubble.

Andrey Medvedeva, deputy chairman of the Moscow Duma and a pro-Kremlin journalist, declared that the authorities, whether civilian or military, must value the lives of Russians. “Or a person has the highest value – and then must be punished for stupid losses of personnel, such as treason– or the country is finished,” Medvedev wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Orthodox Church support

In a message released this Saturday by the Kremlin, Putin congratulated Orthodox Christians and indicated that this day inspires “good deeds and aspirations.”

He also noted that he prayed for the Orthodox Church, whose spiritual leader, Patriarch Kirill, has fully supported the offensive of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine, decided by Putin.

Church organizations “support our soldiers who are participating in a special military operation,” the Russian president declared, using the official Kremlin term for the offensive in Ukraine.

“Such a formidable, multifaceted and truly ascetic job deserves the most sincere respect,” he added.

Patriarch Kirill called on believers to support the pro-Russian “brothers” during the offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Since the start of the offensive in Ukraine on February 24, the patriarch has delivered sermons blessing the Russian military while criticizing the Ukrainian authorities.

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

Patriarch Kirill appealed last Thursday to Moscow and kyiv to institute a ceasefire in Ukraine on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas. Soon after, Putin announced a unilateral 36-hour truce.

But artillery fighting continued on Friday in Bakhmut, the front’s hot spot in eastern Ukraine, as well as shelling in other regions, despite the unilateral ceasefire order.

AFP journalists heard shots from both the Ukrainian and Russian sides after the start of the ceasefire in this city, although their intensity was lower compared to the previous days.

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