Putin attends Kremlin Cathedral Service after inauguration pageantry

The 15th century Orthodox cathedral hosted Putin along with the Russian patriarch, Kirill, who led the religious ritual blessing the start of the leader’s new term.

Putin capped off the day’s ceremonies by attending a thanksgiving prayer service at the Annunciation Cathedral within the Kremlin walls, following the spectacle of his presidential inauguration.

The 15th-century Orthodox cathedral hosted Putin along with the Russian patriarch, Kirill, who led the religious ritual blessing the start of the leader’s new term. It continued a long-standing tradition of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church bestowing a spiritual imprimatur on the incoming presidency.

Dressed in a dark suit, Putin crossed himself repeatedly and lit a candle during the solemn service. He was joined by members of his security detail and other state officials in attendance.

The religious ceremony aimed to portray the continuity between Russia’s modern political power structure and the country’s centuries of tradition as an Orthodox Christian nation. The appearance of Patriarch Kirill, a vocal supporter of Putin and the Ukraine invasion, reinforced the entrenchment of church and state.

While the earlier inauguration ritual highlighted Putin’s authority as head of state, the cathedral service emphasized his role as a leader consecrated before the religious establishment. It sent a symbolic message intended to bolster Putin’s legitimacy among the faithful after an election derided as uncompetitive by opposition figures.

“This completes the cycle, marrying the ceremonial power of the state centred on Putin with the divine authority ascribed to him by the Church,” said one analyst. “It’s meant to validate his new reign in the eyes of Russia’s traditionalist, conservative mainstream.”

Such religious overtones have grown more pronounced during Putin’s tenure as he has emphatically embraced the Orthodox Church as a core pillar of Russian national identity and values. Critics, however, see the conflation of church and state as retrograde and contrary to separations of religion and governance.