Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday attended an Orthodox Church Christmas service by himself inside a Kremlin cathedral rather than joining other worshippers in a public celebration.
Russia’s RIA news agency said it was the first time in years that Putin had marked Christmas in Moscow rather than in the region around the capital.
State television showed two live clips of Putin inside the gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation as Orthodox priests conducted the midnight service, known as the Divine Liturgy.
Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6-7.
Putin, wearing a blue jacket and a high-necked white sweater, was the sole worshipper and crossed himself several times before television coverage cut away to a public service in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral.
Putin, who celebrated Easter last year in the cathedral with thousands of others, also attended Christmas by himself last year in his official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. In 2021, he took part in a public Divine Liturgy in Novgorod.
The Russian Orthodox Church backs the war in Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on Thursday called for both sides to observe a 36-hour Christmas truce that Putin had announced.
In a service given to mark the Divine Liturgy, Kirill on Friday criticised Ukraine for cracking down on a branch of the Orthodox church with longstanding ties to Moscow.
Ukraine’s security service has raided property owned by the church and last month accused a senior cleric of engaging in anti-Ukrainian activity by supporting Russian policies.
“Let us pray for our brothers and sisters and let us believe that someday these diabolical temptations will recede,” said Kirill, mocking what he called “the pathetic attempts” by Kyiv to destroy the church in Ukraine.