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Ukraine marks its 3rd Easter at war as it comes under fire from Russia

Officials in Kyiv told residents to follow Easter services online due to safety concerns

As Ukraine marked its third Easter at war, Russia on Sunday launched a barrage of drones concentrated in Ukraine’s east, wounding more than a dozen people, and claimed its troops took control of a village they had been targeting.

Ukraine’s air force said that Russia had launched 24 Shahed drones overnight, of which 23 were shot down.

Six people, including a child, were wounded in a drone strike in the eastern Kharkiv region, regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. Ten more were wounded in an airstrike Sunday afternoon on the Kharkiv regional capital, also called Kharkiv, Syniehubov said, adding the city was attacked by an aerial bomb.

Fires broke out when debris from drones that were shot down fell on buildings in the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region. No casualties were reported.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced Sunday that its troops had taken control of the village of Ocheretyne, which has been in the crosshairs of Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine. Drone footage obtained by The Associated press showed the village battered by fighting. Not a single person is seen in the footage obtained late Friday, and no building in Ocheretyne appears to have been left untouched by the fighting.

Officials in Kyiv urged residents to follow Orthodox Easter services online due to safety concerns. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city administration, warned that “even on such bright days of celebration, we can expect evil deeds from the aggressor.”

In his Easter address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to be “united in one common prayer.”

In a video filmed in front of Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral, wearing a traditional Vyshyvanka embroidered shirt, Zelenskyy said that God “has a chevron with the Ukrainian flag on his shoulder.” With “such an ally,” Zelenskyy said, “life will definitely win over death.”

A majority of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christians, though the church is divided. Many belong to the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine. The rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church was loyal to the patriarch in Moscow until splitting from Russia after the 2022 invasion and is viewed with suspicion by many Ukrainians.

In Moscow, worshippers including President Vladimir Putin packed Moscow’s landmark Christ the Savior Cathedral late Saturday for a nighttime Easter service led by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and an outspoken supporter of the Kremlin.

Eastern Orthodox Christians usually celebrate Easter later than Catholic and Protestant churches, because they use a different method of calculating the date for the holy day that marks Christ’s resurrection.

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Morton reported from London.
Susie Blann And Elise Morton, The Associated Press