Holy Smoke

Does Putin think he’s fighting a holy war to preserve Orthodox Russia?

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In this episode

Damian Thompson

Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is fundamentally inspired by his determination to preserve the Orthodox identity of Holy Mother Russia, according to the Rev Giles Fraser, writing for UnHerd today. That's not as preposterous a suggestion as you might think, given that the first mass baptisms in the ancient homeland of 'Rus' took place in Kiev – and that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church recently repudiated the authority of the Patriarch of Moscow. But does that mean that Putin's murderous behaviour should be seen in the context of a war of religion? Does the former KGB agent have a religious bone in his body? Is he secretly laughing at those Christian right-wingers who have cast him in the role of defender of Christendom? (Giles Fraser, I should add, is certainly not one of them.) Joining me for this episode of Holy Smoke is Archbishop Nikitas, head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Great Britain, who – as you might expect – is deeply sceptical of attempts to ascribe spiritual motives to the Russian dictator.