The head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has lavished praise on Vladimir Putin after his most recent landslide victory in the Russian presidential elections this week.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia declared Putin the undisputed leader of the nation after what he called a 'convincing' victory in an 'open and honest' election.
According to Pravmir, Kirill said: 'Your convincing victory at the elections in open and honest procedure with high turnout witnesses to the fact that Russians of various nationalities, religions and confessions, to different social and age groups, even to different political views have united around you.'
The church leader also declared that Russia was 'a peace-loving, truly sovereign state that secures human rights and freedoms and bears responsibility for preserving and multiplying spiritual, moral and cultural values that formed our country.'
Addressing Putin, he added: 'May God keep you in good physical and spiritual health and give you strength to carry out what you have planned, which was so decisively backed up by our people. To you, national leader, on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church I declare: many good years!'
The fawning praise came despite the ROC previously not taking a position on Sunday's election. Kirill's foreign affairs spokesman Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk denied the Church would be taking sides, claiming that it is 'politically neutral' and 'above political preferences'.