Russia's Putin attends midnight Orthodox Easter mass in Moscow

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(Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Sunday attended an Easter mass conducted by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has strongly backed the Kremlin leader's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Putin, dressed in a dark blue suit, a white shirt and dark purple tie, stood to one side in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, holding a lit red candle, live images of the midnight service showed.

The Russian leader crossed himself several times during the ceremony. When Patriarch Kirill announced "Christ has risen", Putin joined the other members of the congregation with the reply "Truly he is risen". He otherwise did not speak.

At an outdoor service in Moscow on Saturday, Kirill said he hoped the conflict in Ukraine would end quickly but did not condemn it. His statements backing Russia's intervention, which has been condemned by Kyiv and Western nations as an act of aggression, have splintered the worldwide Orthodox Church.

Russia says it is carrying out a special military operation in Ukraine aimed at demilitarising and "denazifying" the country. Ukraine and the West reject that as a baseless pretext.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Paul Simao)

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