27 July 2013, 15:24

A ceremonial prayer celebrating the 1025th anniversary of Kievan Rus' Christianization is under way on St. Volodymyr's Hill in Kiev.

The celebration is broadcast live on Ukrainian television.

kiev

© Photo "The Voice of Russia"

Taking part in the prayer are Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, Metropolitan Volodymyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and nine heads of local Orthodox churches.

putinyanukovich

© Photo: RIA Novosti

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti, and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic are also taking part in the event.

kiev

© Photo "The Voice of Russia"

Putin, Orthodox leaders in Kiev to celebrate 1025 Russia's baptism day anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Kiev on Saturday for politically charged festivities celebrating the arrival of Christianity in Russia and Ukraine, highlighting a tug-of-war over Kiev's moves to integrate with the EU.

The 1025th anniversary of Christianity in what was once known as Kievan Rus comes ahead of a November summit in Vilnius which could see the European Union sign a long-delayed association agreement with Ukraine.

Accompanied by Patriarch Kirill, the Russian leader and his host Viktor Yanukovych took part in a prayer service in central Kiev, the first item on Putin's agenda bulging with events designed to play up historic ties between the two majority Orthodox nations. 

The two leaders are also scheduled to meet Ukraine's top Orthodox clerics and visit the country's main cathedral, the Kiev-Pecherskaya Lavra.

Ahead of the arrival of the top guests including the Serbian and Moldovan presidents, authorities in Kiev dramatically beefed up a police presence and sealed off access to the park where the prayer service was conducted.

Overlooking the Dnipro River, the park hosts a monument to Prince Vladimir the Great revered for converting ancient Rus to Christianity in 988.

Around 100 representatives of the ultra-nationalist party Svoboda (Freedom) and other nationalist groups staged a rally not far from the park protesting Putin's arrival.

The protesters held placards deriding the Russian strongman while police looked on.Since coming to power in 2010, Ukraine's Yanukovych has performed a tight balancing act by seeking closer European ties while also trying to remain on good terms with prickly Soviet-era master Moscow.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said closer cooperation would be discussed although no agreements would be signed.

Putin praises the role of Orthodox Christianity in country’s history

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday praised the role of Orthodox Christianity in the country’s history and congratulated the heads of the world’s Orthodox churches on the1025th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus, a medieval state comprising parts of modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“The adoption of Christianity became a turning point in the fate of our fatherland, made it an inseparable part of the Christian civilization and helped it turn into one of the largest world powers,” Putin said in a message addressed to participants of a commemorative celebration on Red Square, the Kremlin reported.

“It is Orthodoxy that gave Russia a powerful impetus for the development and rise of culture and education,” the message says.

Putin also praised the Russian Orthodox Church’s role in developing a constructive dialogue with other Orthodox churches as well as international collaboration.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill, opened the celebration.

“The foundation of our national, spiritual and cultural life was laid 1025 years ago,” he said. “Our ancestors adopted the Christian faith and, together with it, a system of values and morals … that no historical upheavals were able to destroy.”

Despite the fact that Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians live in different countries today, the patriarch said, their spiritual foundation remains common and unites the Slavic nations.

Leaders of Orthodox Churches demand end to violence against Christians worldwide

The heads and representatives of the Local Churches, who have gathered in Moscow to attend celebrations of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia, have made a joint statement seeking protection for Christians who are subject to persecution for their faith in different regions of the world today.

"Every day thousands of believers in Christ are being tortured and driven out of their native lands; many people meet their death. News about torture and murders are coming from Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. In Kosovo, religious shrines are being defiled, many churches have been destroyed, and many people are deprived of the opportunity to visit the graves of their relatives and to pray to God in the land of their ancestors," they said in their statement, which was forwarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

The bishops said they were greatly troubled by the situation in the Middle East.

Voice of Russia, Interfax, TASS

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