MOSCOW, August 8 (RIA Novosti) - A memorial service is to be held in the Moscow Christ the Savior Cathedral on Saturday to mark the anniversary of the conflict in South Ossetia, a press spokesperson for the Moscow patriarch said.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is to lead the service to remember the victims of the five-day war in the former Georgian republic, where some 162 civilians and 67 Russian service personnel, including peacekeepers, were killed. Many South Ossetians are Russian passport holders.
The war started in the early hours of August 8 when Georgia launch a military offensive against South Ossetia. Russia reacted swiftly expelling Georgian troops from South Ossetia and forcing them deep into Georgia amid accusations on both sides of human right abuses.
The Russian Orthodox Church was quick to respond to the conflict dispatching aid to the victims and both the Moscow and Georgian patriarchs openly spoke out against the war.
Georgia severed diplomatic relations with Russia after the conflict which saw Russia recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another former Georgian republic, as independent states.
Since being inaugurated as patriarch in January Kirill, known as a liberal, has worked hard to improve ties with all branches of the Orthodox church, which have been subject to disagreements since the break up of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
He spoke out against a move by South Ossetia to establish an independent Orthodox church from the Georgian patriarchate in South Ossetia.