Volodymyr Zelensky meets Antony Blinken, Lloyd Austin in Kyiv

Zelensky’s meeting with US officials took place as Ukrainians and Russians observed Orthodox Easter, when the faithful celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Speaking from Kyiv’s ancient St Sophia Cathedral, Zelensky, who is Jewish, highlighted its significance to a nation wracked by nearly two months of war.

“The great holiday today gives us great hope and unwavering faith that light will overcome darkness, good will overcome evil, life will overcome death, and therefore Ukraine will surely win!” he said.

Zelensky said on Sunday that light would defeat darkness and Kyiv would triumph over Russia as Ukrainians marked a bitterly emotional Orthodox Easter overshadowed by the grinding two-month-old war.

Ukrainians flocked to churches on Sunday morning to mark what they call the Great Day after their centuries-old tradition of midnight Easter services was abandoned the night before over fears of Russian shelling and a nationwide curfew.

Russian forces continued to concentrate their attacks on the east, including trying to dislodge the last Ukrainian troops in the battered port of Mariupol.

Ukrainian servicewomen attend an Orthodox Easter service at a frontline position near Zaporizhzhia on Sunday.Credit:AP

Not far from the eastern front line where fighting is raging, shelling rumbled as a priest led a service for a congregation of just three people in Kramatorsk.

Below Kyiv’s skyline of golden onion domes, hundreds of churchgoers gathered at Volodymyr Cathedral. Some shed tears and prayed for an end to the war.

They said the holiday had taken on greater emotional significance because of the national hardship.


“We’ve started to value everything a little differently, you value every day differently because you understand that you could lose this,” said Darya Barabash, who was expecting a baby girl.

Long queues formed outside the cathedral as worshippers carrying baskets of ornately painted Easter eggs and paska, a traditional Ukrainian Easter bread, waited to receive blessings from a priest.

In the north-east Kharkiv region, where shelling has intensified in recent weeks, an army chaplain conducted a service for soldiers on the frontlines, splashing them with holy water and taking confessions.

For a few hours in the morning, Ukrainian television took a break from war coverage of death and destruction, airing emotional scenes of people praying, priests intoning and the churches that dot the country.

By mid-morning the governor of the eastern Donetsk region that is targeted by a new Russian offensive said that two children aged 5 and 14 had been killed in shelling.


Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, said that seven churches there have been destroyed during the war.

While churches used to be full for overnight and morning Easter services, this year churches have been asked not to gather many people, with concerns they could be targets for missiles.

“Our nation has always been united. And today we are showing that it is impossible to scare us,” said Mikhail, a worshipper in army uniform.

“Even though many were saying there would be provocations at churches, God protects us, our faith protects us and Christ is risen, truly he is risen.”

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