Patriarch Kirill, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Patriarch of Moscow, backed the use of force against the 'threat' of Ukraine.
It's the 27th day of Putin's 'special military operation' in Ukraine. While a Ukrainian presidential adviser said the conflict could end in less than three weeks, casualties between troops and civilians continue to mount, and areas across the country are running out of supplies.
The UN recently estimated that more than 900 civilians have been killed and another 1,459 wounded so far. Yesterday, 21 March, a pro-Kremlin publisher in Russia appeared to publish the country's death toll, sitting close to 10,000 troops killed.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pursues peace talks with Putin, the Russian leader's church chief suggested the use of force can be justified.
Speaking to 90 million followers, he said, as per The Daily Beast: "If we see [Ukraine] as a threat, we have the right to use force to ensure the threat is eradicated.
"We have entered into a conflict which has not only physical but also metaphysical significance. We are talking about human salvation, something much more important than politics."
Kirill's comments come as more than 10 million people have fled Ukraine amid the conflict.
The patriarch's support comes down to a wartime coalition with Putin known as symphonia, essentially meaning a harmonic alliance between church and state whereby each body respects the other, while never dominating one another.
This offers some context for Kirill's words, such as suggesting Ukrainians are sinners. "Many people out of weakness, stupidity, ignorance and most often a willingness to justify sin condemned by the Bible is a test of our ability to profess faith in our saviour," he said.
Kirill also supported Putin's denial of Ukraine's independence, telling his congregation that Russians and Ukrainians are 'really one people', joined by a 'common national identity', reports the Church Times.
He also said: "Our most important prayer must be that the devil does not permit brother to raise hand against brother.
"We are a united people, who, though living today in different countries, came out of a single Kyiv baptismal font, united by a common faith and common historical destiny."
Kirill's support for Putin hasn't been echoed outside of Russia, with a Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam leaving the parish after receiving threats for condemning the invasion and war in Ukraine, it claimed.
In a statement, the parish council of St. Nicholas of Myra said: "It is no longer possible for [us] to function within the Moscow Patriarchate and provide a spiritually safe environment for our faithful."
If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information
- Russia claims Ukraine was behind car bomb that killed Putin's ally's daughter
- 12 critics of Putin's war on Ukraine have now been found dead in mysterious circumstances
- Model Faces Death Threats After Taking Selfies On Putin's Destroyed Tanks In Ukraine
- Ukraine: 'At Least 900 Arrests' As Russians Protest Putin's Invasion