Russians visiting an official website of the Russian Orthodox Church this weekend were greeted with what must have been a jarring message: Vladimir Putin’s top holy man, Patriarch Kirill, cheering on Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
The main page of the official website for Patriarch Kirill’s residence in Peredelkino near Moscow was hacked to show a message to visitors that read, “Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia blesses the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ counter-offensive.”
A video of Ukrainian troops preparing to “take back what’s theirs” was still playing on the website as of Saturday night. The video, released by Ukraine’s Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny, was widely seen as heralding the start of a large-scale counteroffensive to take back territories currently under Russian occupation.
The dramatic footage shows Ukrainian soldiers praying together ahead of battle and vowing “to destroy enemies of the motherland.”
“May my hand be firm to kill the enemy. Let my eyes be clear to kill the enemy. Let my will be steel to kill the enemy,” the men chant, readying themselves for “sacred vengeance” and “holy victory.”
The page was also altered to show a Ukrainian-language “prayer for the counteroffensive,” along with slogans in support of Ukraine’s military, like “We believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine” and “Victory is for God and Ukraine.”
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of National Security and Defence Council, said Saturday that Kyiv was ready to start the counteroffensive and that it could kick off “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in a week.”
Moscow, meanwhile, unleashed overnight attacks on Kyiv early Sunday, leaving at least one person dead 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 rang out, cursing out Putin and shouting “Glory to Ukraine!” in a show of defiance.
“The history of Ukraine is a long-standing irritant for the insecure Russians,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak quipped on Telegram.
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