Angry Ukrainians throw Russian priest out of church as he prayed for Putin

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An "armed" mob of angry civilians have allegedly thrown a Russian Orthodox priest out of a church after he prayed for Vladimir Putin and refused to do the same for fallen Ukrainian soldiers.

Video footage from an unidentified Ukrainian city shows the angry mob dragging a robed and bearded man, and others, from the interior of the plush building in Smila, central Ukraine.

"Angry civilians throw Russian Orthodox Church priest out from the church in Ukraine, after he started to 'pray for Putin' and refused to pray for fallen Ukrainian warriors," wrote a person who shared a video of the incident on Twitter.

He added: "Russian Orthodox Church is another layer of FSB/KGB agents/assets in Ukraine."

On Sunday, the armed men, unaffiliated with the Church of the Holy Protection in Smela, came to the Sunday Liturgy and, despite the resistance of the parishioners, threw a Fr. Vasily out of the church, allegedly instigated by one of a number of rebel priests.

The links between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church are well-known.

One study said the Russian Orthodox Church is now a "fully assimilated part of the Kremlin’s domestic and foreign policy machine".

On March 16, Pope Francis held a video meeting with Patriarch Kirill, the 75-year-old leader of the Russian Orthodox Church and a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin.

The head of the Catholic church warned the Russian patriarch against hiding behind religion to justify armed aggression and conquest.

“Once upon a time there was also talk in our churches of holy war or just war,” the pope said, according to the Vatican press office. “Today we cannot speak like this.”

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Ten days earlier, in a sermon, Patriarch Kirill appeared to endorse Moscow’s so-called “special peacekeeping operation,” as the war on Ukraine is officially called in Russia.

“We have entered into a struggle that has not a physical, but a metaphysical significance,” the patriarch said.

“He expressed his view that behind the war in Ukraine there is a spiritual difference between the West and the Orthodox world, and it is obvious that for him, the latter is the better,” Thomas Bremer, who teaches Eastern Churches Studies at the University of Münster in Germany, told Al Jazeera.

“So according to him, the war is not about political aims or influence, but about spiritual, or, as he put it, ‘metaphysical’ aims. Thus, he gives the official Russian point of view a theological underpinning.”

Putin and the patriarch enjoy close ties, with Patriarch Kirill describing Putin’s 2012 election victory as a “miracle of God”.

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