Russian president Vladimir Putin has visited the Ukranian capital Kiev as part of celebrations to mark the 1025th anniversary of the region’s conversion to Christianity.
The kingdom of Kievan Rus, with Kiev as its capital, later became modern-day Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. It was converted from paganism to Orthodox Christianity in 988 by Vladimir the Great.
Heads of the Orthodox church from around the world came to mark the occasion. A prayer service led by the head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, was held at Vladimir Hill, named after Vladimir the Great.
There was tight security with the centre of Kiev cordoned off until midday. Many worshipers who had hoped to hear the service said they were unable to get through security.
After a visit to Kyiv’s historic Pechera Monastery, Putin met with Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovyc for talks on a range of issues including security.
Putin emphasised that the celebration marked unity between the people of Ukraine and Russia; a message that didn’t go down well with many Ukranians.
One local woman said: “For me it’s not a political event but a historical one, strongly connected to our country.”
The ultra nationalist party Svoboda staged a protest against Putin’s visit. Andriy Illienko, a member of Svoboda said “We don’t agree with Putin’s position, he once said that Ukraine isn’t even a state. We don’t want him to drag Ukraine into another imperialist project, which is exactly why he came to Kiev.”
Euronews’ correspondent in Kiev, Angelina Kariakina, says: “Celebrations of the 1025th anniversary of the Christianization of Kievan Rus has become a good occasion for the Russian and Ukrainian presidents to discuss key-issues for both states in person. Of interest though is whether Ukraine can keep the fine line between cooperation and integration with Russia. ”