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    PUTIN, KUCHMA ATTEND SERVICE IN ASSUMPTION CATHEDRAL OF KIEV-PECHERSK LAVRA

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    KIEV, January 24, 2004. /RIA Novosti/. Russian and Ukrainian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma attended a service in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (monastery) on Saturday.

    Putin and Kuchma arrived at the monastery together.

    Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Vladimir, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, welcomed the two leaders at the Assumption Cathedral.

    After that, a church service followed. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II, Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Vladimir, Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma were mentioned in the prayer. The chorus sang "Mnogaya Leta" (Many Years) to them.

    Metropolitan Vladimir told the two Presidents about the history of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. Lavras are the largest Orthodox monasteries subordinate directly to the Patriarch.

    "We are praying for the prosperity of our countries and wisdom of their leaders," the Metropolitan noted.

    He handed the icon of Sts. Anthony, Theodosius and other Pechersk saints to Vladimir Putin.

    Taking the icon, Putin kissed it and presented Metropolitan Vladimir with the icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov painted over 100 years ago.

    "We have not forgotten and shall never forget what the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is. Prince Vladimir baptized Russia here and the country was called Kievan Rus for a long time," the Russian leader said.

    Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma put two candles in the Assumption cathedral and were photographed in front of the gilded iconostasis.

    The Assumption Cathedral is the main church of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. It was built in 1078 and was ruined several times: during the Tatar-Mongol invasion in 1240, the inroad of Crimean Tatars in 1482 and in fire of 1718. During the WWII Kiev was captured by the Nazis in 1941 and the cathedral was utterly destroyed in an explosion.

    The restoration of the Assumption Cathedral began only in 1997. It has been almost accomplished.

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