Desperate Putin sends religious icon to front line to boost morale

Russian soldiers bless themselves and kiss the replica of the Acheiropoieta
Russian soldiers bless themselves and kiss the replica of the Acheiropoieta
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A religious icon is being toured around the front line to boost morale among jaded Russian troops ahead of a predicted Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Footage broadcast by Russian television on Sunday showed soldiers fighting in Ukraine blessing themselves and kissing the replica of the Acheiropoieta.

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. 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.

A Russian soldier kisses the Acheiropoieta
A Russian soldier kisses the Acheiropoieta

He was filmed presenting it to Russia’s Dnieper Group of Forces and told them that 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.

The morale boosting effort comes after months of insignificant territorial gains, and reflects a growing superstition in Putin.

The Acheiropoieta
The Acheiropoieta

“He has a primitive superstition for everything that concerns religion,” Ksenia Luchenko, a prominent author on church affairs, told exiled media radio station Ekho Moskvy at the time.

“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.”

Ukrainian troops and officials have taunted Russia by heavily trailing their counter-offensive for months.

On Saturday Ukraine’s top military commander released a video promising to “take back” land from Russian occupiers.

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