Paranoid Putin goes to church with huge security team over assassination fears

Amid rumours of infighting at the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin was surrounded by an army of bodyguards at Moscow’s largest cathedral yesterday.

The Russian leader attended a service at Christ the Saviour Cathedral to mark Orthodox Easter.

Before he entered the building, dozens of dark-suited security operatives, most of them wearing red ties, took up positions around the church.

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They were believed to be crack FSO Federal Protection Service guards, who are routinely armed and whose task is to keep Putin and other top officials safe.

The stern-faced agents appeared to be in place to protect Putin from worshippers who underwent intense security checks before being allowed into the cathedral.

Traffic was restricted in central Moscow hours before the service began.

Putin admitted that the second Orthodox Easter of his war with Ukraine came at a time of “serious challenges”.

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“The wonderful, beloved Easter holiday gives believers hope, inspires good thoughts and deeds, and serves to affirm high moral ideals and values in society,” said Putin, whose attack on Ukraine is believed to have killed more than 200,000 people.

“The Church has always been together with the people, sharing joys and hardships with them.

“And today, in the face of serious challenges, it is actively involved in the affairs of mercy and charity, helping people find a strong spiritual support.”

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Putin was accompanied at the ceremony by Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin, a close ally.

The country’s top churchman Patriarch Kirill, 76, gave a sermon which gave his church’s blessing to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – telling the dictator that the sovereign land he has invaded is traditional Russian territory.

‘Today, on our Russian historical land, grave events are taking place,” he said.

“You could say it's an internal feud".

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"Today," Kirill added, "I am addressing both Russians and Ukrainians. I especially appeal to those who, against their will, were involved in this conflict.

“We must do everything by the power of our prayers and our good deeds to stop this conflict as quickly as possible, so that peace and a common good life, fraternal relations once again unite our peoples firmly and firmly, who were the one people of united Rus.

“Today, this will be my special prayer, and I would ask you all to join this prayer so that the Lord blesses the Russian land".

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He went on: “When I say ‘Russian’, I mean Rus', from which the Great Russians, Little Russians, and other nationalities came out, but the same Rus' with which we are all connected historically, spiritually and in terms of civilisation.

“May the Lord help us, having passed the trials that are now taking place, to regain peace, mutual respect, harmony, the ability to live and work together.

“May the Lord preserve the Russian land, may the Lord preserve all the peoples who historically live on this vast part of the land.

“May the Lord keep our countries, may peace and love be strengthened in relations between us.

“Happy Easter! Christ is Risen!”

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Putin was seen crossing himself several times during the ceremony, known as the Divine Liturgy.

Concern over Putin’s security is acute in Russia amid the war against Ukraine.

Two weeks ago pro-Putin blogger and propagandist Vladen Tatarsky was assassinated in St Petersburg.

Putin’s official palaces and residences are now protected with sophisticated air defence systems.

Some reports say he uses body doubles to minimise the risk of assassination at events with large crowds.

He has also reduced public appearances citing the danger of Covid infection.

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