MOSCOW, June 22 — President Vladimir Putin visited a huge new Orthodox Christian cathedral dedicated to the military on Monday as Russia prepares to vote on reforms that could let him stay in power until 2036.
Putin, 67, addressed hundreds of soldiers to commemorate Russia’s remembrance day following a prayer ceremony led by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Orthodox Church, at the Patriot cathedral, which opened earlier this month.
“We have gathered here outside the walls of the main cathedral of the Russian armed forces to remember the heroes of the past with deep respect,” he said.
The lavishly decorated cathedral, some 55 km (34 miles) west of Moscow, had been due to open in May as part of a sequence of events to commemorate 75 years since the Soviet victory in World War Two, but this was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cathedral was originally meant to include a mosaic of Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu demonstrating their support for Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, but the plan was dropped. The Kremlin said it was too early to celebrate the achievements of Russia’s current leadership.
Putin has made enshrining the memory of the Soviet effort in World War Two a centrepiece of his two-decade rule and on Wednesday he will oversee a military parade across Red Square to commemorate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
The following day Russians will begin casting their ballots in a seven-day vote to approve or reject an array of reforms, including one that could allow Putin to serve two more terms in the Kremlin instead of stepping down in 2024. — Reuters