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Ukraine celebrates its third Easter at war under fire from Russian drones – Chicago Tribune

As Ukraine celebrated its third Easter at war, Russia launched a barrage of drones concentrated in eastern Ukraine, claiming its forces had taken control of a village they had targeted.

Ukraine’s air force said on Sunday that Russia had launched 24 Shahed drones, 23 of which were shot down by its air defenses.

Six people, including a child, were injured in a drone strike in the eastern Kharkov region, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

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

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that its forces had taken control of the village of Ocheretyne, which was 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 can be seen in the footage taken late Friday, and no building in Ocheretyne appears to have been unaffected by the fighting.

Officials in Kiev urged residents to follow Orthodox Easter services online due to security concerns. Serhiy Popko, head of the Kiev city government, warned that “even on such beautiful holidays we can expect bad acts 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 St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, wearing a traditional Vyshyvanka embroidered shirt, Zelenskyy said that God “has a chevron with the Ukrainian flag on his shoulder.” With “such an ally,” Zelenskiy said, “life will surely win over death.”

A majority of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christians, although 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 it split from Russia after the 2022 invasion, and is viewed with suspicion by many Ukrainians.

In Moscow, worshipers including President Vladimir Putin packed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral late Saturday for an overnight 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 for calculating the date for the holy day that marks the resurrection of Christ.