Desperate Putin sends religious icon to front line to boost morale

Moscow: Aircraft spotted as explosions hit Russian capital

A religious icon depicting Jesus Christ is being sent around the Russian front line in Ukraine to bolster low morale, local media has reported. Ahead of Ukraine’s imminent counter offensives, which is a source of growing concern for Russian forces, footage broadcasted by Putin’s state media showed soldiers kissing a replica of the Acheiropoieta to bring themselves good fortune.

Also called icons without hands, an Acheiropoieta is a picture of the Virgin Mary or Jesus Christ that is believed to have come into existence miraculously, without the help of humans.

The icon, which is said to have been blessed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, is being taken on a tour of Russian units, said Archpriest Vyacheslav, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, who is accompanying the icon.

“The battlegroup’s command decided to make a procession to pass it from unit to unit,” Vyacheslav said.

“We will deliver it to every unit, be it on the front line or in the rear, big or small, no matter.”

Putin gave the icon to commanders during an Easter visit in April to the regions of Kherson and Luhansk.

The autocrat was filmed presenting the icon to Russia’s Dnieper Group of Forces, telling them it had belonged to “one of the most successful defence ministers in the Russian empire”.

He also gave a similar replica to the National Guard’s East Headquarters in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region.

Ksenia Luchenko, a prominent author on church affairs, told exiled media radio station Ekho Moskvy at the time that Putin was “primitively superstitious”.

“He has a primitive superstition for everything that concerns religion,” she said. “Putin previously gave his blessing to the idea of handing out (pocket-size) icons to the troops – it didn’t work. Now they’ve decided to go even further.”

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This latest effort comes as Russia ready themselves for a brutal Ukrainian counter offensive that could have demonstrative effects on the outcome of the war, though Western analysts remain sceptical.

Over the weekend, Volodymyr Zelensky said that he held a meeting at which decisions were made “on the timing of the movement of Ukrainian troops”, referring to the counter offensives.

Previously, it was believed that only four people were aware of the exact details of the counter attacks..

Between 12 and 18 battalions, most of which have been trained by Ukraine’s western supporters, are expected to take part in the imminent offensives.

Aerial attacks over the course of the month of May have drastically increased as both sides prepare for this next stage of conflict.

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Russian air defences stopped eight drones converging on Moscow, officials said on Tuesday (May 30), in an attack that authorities blamed on Ukraine, while Russia continued a relentless wave of daylight and nighttime bombardment of Kyiv that began on Monday.

Two people received medical attention for unspecified injuries following the Moscow attack in the early hours of Tuesday, according to Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, while residents from two high-rise buildings damaged by the drones were evacuated.

In Ukraine, Russia launched a pre-dawn air raid on Kyiv, killing at least one person and sending the capital’s residents again scrambling into shelters.

At least 20 Iranian Shahed explosive drones were destroyed by air defence forces in Kyiv’s airspace in Russia’s third attack on the capital in the past 24 hours, according to early information from the Kyiv Military Administration. Overall, Ukraine shot down 29 of 31 drones fired into the country, most in the Kyiv area, the air force later added.

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