Russians visiting an official website of the Russian Orthodox Church this weekend were greeted with what must have been a shocking message: Vladimir Putin’s greatest holy man, Patriarch Kirill, applauding the counteroffensive of the ‘Ukraine.
The main page of the official website of Patriarch Kirill’s residence in Peredelkino near Moscow was hacked to display a message to visitors that read: “The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia blesses the counter-offensive of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” .
A video of Ukrainian troops preparing to “take back what’s theirs” was still playing on the website on Saturday night. The video, released by Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny, was widely seen as heralding the start of a full-scale counteroffensive to retake territories currently under Russian occupation.
The dramatic footage shows Ukrainian soldiers praying together before battle and vowing to “destroy the enemies of the fatherland”.
“Let my hand be firm to kill the enemy. Let my eyes be clear to kill the enemy. May my will be of steel to kill the enemy”, chant the men, preparing for “sacred revenge” and “holy victory”.
The page was also changed to display a “prayer for the counter-offensive” in Ukrainian, as well as slogans in support of the Ukrainian army, such as “We believe in the Ukrainian armed forces” and “Victory belongs to God and to Ukraine”.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said on Saturday that Kiev was ready to launch the counteroffensive and that it could start “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week”.
Moscow, meanwhile, unleashed nighttime attacks on Kiev early on Sunday, killing at least one as the capital prepared to begin celebrations marking its founding 1,541 years ago.
Many residents took to their balconies as the air raid sirens sounded, cursing Putin and shouting “Glory to Ukraine!” in a show of challenge.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for insecure Russians,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak joked on Telegram.
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