Putin attends Moscow Orthodox Easter mass

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended an Easter mass conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly backed the Kremlin leader's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Putin, dressed in a dark blue suit, a white shirt and dark purple tie, stood to one side in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, holding a lit red candle, live images of the midnight service showed.

The Russian leader crossed himself several times during the ceremony.

When Patriarch Kirill, leader of Russia's Orthodox Church, announced "Christ has risen", Putin joined the other members of the congregation with the reply "Truly he is risen". He otherwise did not speak.

At an outdoor service in Moscow on Saturday, Kirill said he hoped the conflict in Ukraine would end quickly but did not condemn it.

His statements backing Russia's invasion, which has been condemned by Kyiv and Western nations, have splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church.

While speaking on Saturday of the need for reconciliation, he did not question or criticise the military campaign.

"May the Lord first of all reconcile our people in Ukraine, in Donbas, where blood is still being shed," said Kirill, who like Putin believes Russians and Ukrainians are essentially one people.

"May the Lord heal the wounds inflicted on people, on the families that have lost their breadwinners, on the parents who have lost their children and on the children who have lost their parents."

The patriarch's support for Russia's military campaign, in which thousands of soldiers and Ukrainian civilians have been killed, has angered some within the Russian Orthodox Church as well as in churches abroad linked to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, has dropped plans to meet with Kirill in June.

Russia says it is carrying out a special military operation in Ukraine aimed at demilitarising and "denazifying" the country.

Ukraine and the West reject that as a baseless pretext.

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