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Photos show stark contrast in Easter celebrations in Ukraine and Russia

People attend an Orthodox Easter church service April 24 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Reuters)

Christians in Ukraine celebrated Easter this weekend, as Russia’s invasion entered its third month.

Ukrainians started the holiday under curfew, after the country’s presidential office banned residents in all 24 regions from venturing outdoors at night as Russia intensified its attacks.

The contrast was stark between Orthodox Christians in war-torn Ukraine and those in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin attended a midnight Orthodox Easter Mass.

In Ukraine, the religious weekend offered a brief but welcome respite from the conflict for many, with displaced families, soldiers and others taking part in traditions across Ukraine. Children painted eggs and priests offered blessings, while aid agencies baked and provided kulich — a type of sweet, dense Easter bread.

Orthodox Christianity, which is the dominant religion in Ukraine and Russia, observes Easter on Sunday, April 24, this year.

Many Christians also celebrated with midnight Mass and other events on Friday and Saturday, but the conflict has further added to a growing divide between Orthodox Christians in Russia and those in Ukraine.

In Moscow, Putin attended an Easter service led Patriarch Kirill, the top Russian Orthodox bishop and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kirill has been a vocal supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin, dressed in a blue suit and holding a glowing red candle at a midnight service in Moscow, joined other congregants in proclaiming, “Truly [Christ] is risen,” according to Reuters.

Conducting the Mass in Moscow, Kirill hailed “young soldiers who take the oath, who embark on the path of defending the fatherland.”

Before the holiday, Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called for an Easter truce. Guterres said last week that the time was apt for “reflection on the meaning of suffering, sacrifice, death — and rebirth. It is meant to be a moment of unity.”

But Russia rejected the truce, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said in a video message posted on Telegram last week that the refusal “shows very well how the leaders of this state [Russia] actually treat the Christian faith.”

“But we keep our hope,” Zelensky said. “Hope for peace, hope that life will overcome death.”

Ukrainians outside the country also celebrated. According to the U.N. refugee agency, more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the war began on Feb. 24.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia fired at least 85 missiles on at least six major cities in Ukraine on November 15, in one of the most widespread attacks of the war so far. The strikes came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking by video link, presented a 10-point peace plan to G-20 leaders at a summit in Indonesia. As in previous Russian missile attacks, critical civilian infrastructure appeared to be primary targets. Parts of several cities that were hit were left without electrical power on Tuesday afternoon.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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