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Ukrainians celebrate uneasy Easter as Russian attacks threaten to escalate

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By Euronews  with AP
A Ukrainian soldier holds an Easter cake and an icon during a blessing ceremony on Easter eve at a military position outside Kyiv, 23 April 2022
A Ukrainian soldier holds an Easter cake and an icon during a blessing ceremony on Easter eve at a military position outside Kyiv, 23 April 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky   -  

Ukrainian capital's residents marked Orthodox Easter on Sunday with prayers for those fighting on the front lines and others trapped beyond them in places like Mariupol.

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv was ringed by hundreds of worshipers with baskets to be blessed, as soldiers in the crowd prayed and others lit candles or held flowers.

Just hundreds of metres away, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of hope and victory for his nation during an Easter Sunday address.

Addressing his compatriots from the ancient St. Sophia cathedral, Zelenskyy said that Easter "gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win.”

"The Lord and the holy heavenly light are on our side," he said. “We are going through very difficult ordeals. Let us reach a just end on this path — the beginning of a happy life and prosperity of Ukraine."

“On Easter, we ask God for great grace to make our dream come true - this is another great day -- the day when a great peace will come to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy concluded.

With the Orthodox church in the country split between the Moscow and Kyiv patriarchates -- a difference made tense by Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- some worshippers hoped the holy day could inspire gestures of peacemaking.

“The church can help,” said one man who gave only his first name, Serhii, as he came to a church in Kyiv under the Moscow Patriarchate.

He and others brought baskets to be blessed by priests for Easter, who sprinkled holy water over candles and home-dyed eggs -- an Orthodox Christian custom present throughout eastern Europe.

Defiance amid fears of Russian rocket attacks

Residents of rural villages battered by the war approached the holiday with some defiance.

“We’ll celebrate Easter no matter what, no matter the horror,” said Kateryna Lazarenko, 68, in the northern village of Ivanivka outside Chernihiv, where ruined Russian tanks still littered the roads.

Others shared the concern of the authorities that Russian forces could increase the bombardment of Ukrainian towns and cities over the holiday weekend.

A number of local leaders tightened the curfew measures until a country-wide curfew was imposed on Saturday. Citizens were asked not to leave their homes unless necessary, while churches postponed all religious services to Sunday morning.

“How do I feel? Very nervous, everyone is nervous,” said another resident, Olena Koptyl, as she prepared her Easter bread.

“The Easter holiday doesn’t bring any joy. I’m crying a lot. We cannot forget how we lived.” She and 12 others spent a month sheltering from Russian soldiers in the basement of her home before the soldiers withdrew.