Russian President Vladimir Putin quoted Jesus Christ at a Moscow rally Friday in justifying his military invasion of Ukraine. Reports say over 200,000 people were in the crowd as the strongman quoted scripture.
Putin’s audacious statements come even as he is branded a war criminal and pariah in the West for the invasion of Ukraine.
In heaping praise on his military, Putin declared, “We have not had unity like this for a long time,” before going on to paraphrase the Bible. “There is no greater love than giving up one’s soul for one’s friends.”
Putin is a Russian Orthodox Christian but has previously said he is uncomfortable with public expressions of faith. The scripture he paraphrased as “one’s soul” is generally translated in English to read “one’s life.”
One of the patriotic songs performed before the crowd is called “Made in the U.S.S.R.,” and its opening features the lyric “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”
A large banner on the stage proclaimed “For a world without Nazism.”
Putin declared that national unity is stronger than it has been in a long time, though state workers were required by authorities to attend the rally. Some were given instructions to wave Russian flags and put the pro-war white “Z” on their clothing as a show of support for the invasion.
Some political analysts believe the Russian president sees Ukraine as part of Russia’s “spiritual space,” and many supporters see the invasion as a way to reunite Eastern Europe and the Orthodox church. It is also another sign of his increasing use of religious and historical imagery to unite Russia behind Moscow.
The rally was held at Luzhniki Stadium to celebrate the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea — an invasion declared illegal by the Ukrainian government and not recognized by Western nations.
And while Putin deems it proper to quote Bible verses in support of military action, he would be better served to read deeper into its call for peace and blessings for the weak.