A moment of silence, knees on the ground, against the din of war in Ukraine.

The choir of the Orthodox Church of Obukhiv, 40 kilometers south of Kiev, fell silent while the thirty faithful gathered for their loved ones caught under the fire of Russian guns.

The prayer for peace pronounced by the priest during mass on Sunday March 6 did not manage to appease their anxieties.

The faces remain closed and only the babbling of a few children manages to relax the leaden atmosphere.

Still in shock from the invasion, Nadezhda wipes away a tear before getting up.

"Of course this invasion is bad (...) We must protect the country, but we must also think about how to end the war", confides the retiree to France 24.

Nadezhda (in the center, with the white cap) and Volodymyr, just behind her, kneeling during the prayer for peace in Ukraine.

© Mehdi Chebil

Volodymyr believes, meanwhile, that we must continue to defend the country against the Russian invader.

The former employee of Antonov, an airline construction company, knows people engaged in combat.

"I did my military service in the Soviet army in Moscow in the 1980s, and I would never have imagined this. Our army inflicts losses such as the Russian army has never experienced... I'm sure we'll get the win!" exclaims the 50-year-old faithful.

Statements that go against those of the ultimate spiritual leader of this Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Three days after the start of the invasion, the latter had denounced the "forces of evil" who were fighting against the historical unity of Russia and Ukraine.

There are two rival Orthodox Churches in Ukraine: an independent clergy and another dependent on the Moscow Patriarchate.

With 300 years of existence, the latter is the majority in terms of the number of parishes in Ukraine.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, its ultimate spiritual leader, is close to the Kremlin.

Around 30 faithful attended Mass on March 6 at the Orthodox Church in Obukhiv.

© Mehdi Chebil

War and its procession of horrors are today driving a wedge between the two Churches.

A spokesman for the Ukrainian branch on Friday denounced the Kremlin's lies justifying the Russian invasion.

"Yes, lying is a sin and the Russian power lied. Many believed it. The officials said that there would be no war, that they were not planning anything," said Father Nikolai Danilevich, during from an interview with France 24 - RFI.

"That's why this invasion is an act of treachery, which has broken all forms of trust," the spokesperson said from his office in Kiev's Caves Lavra Monastery, an impressive collection of religious buildings on the edge of the Dnieper.

Father Nikolai Danilevich in the Lavra of the Caves monastery in Kiev, one of the high places of Slavic Orthodoxy, on March 4, 2022. © Mehdi Chebil

In the modest church of Obukhiv, the sermon of the March 6 mass was more moderate.

The priest, Sergei Stolyarchuk, confined himself to religious generalities, calling for prayer and peace, without taking sides in the ongoing conflict.

The question of the formal authority of the Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, still remains taboo.

The clergyman takes refuge behind the "apolitical" character of the Church so as not to comment on the statements of Pope Kirill.

Serguei Stolyarchuk, the priest of the Obukhiv Orthodox Church, during mass on March 6, 2022. © Mehdi Chebil

Like all Ukrainians, however, he was upset by the Russian invasion.

He learned about it in the first hours of the attack, when his daughter, who lives near Boryspil airport, called him in a panic to tell him that she heard explosions.

"It's our country, it's our land, it's our people... How can we remain indifferent?!", indignant Sergei Stolyarchuk, the priest of the Church of Obukhiv, during an interview after mass.

"We pray for our army, we pray for our nation, because we are a nation", adds the ecclesiastic, like a snub to the statements of Vladimir Putin, who denies the existence of a Ukrainian nation.

"I cannot carry a weapon, my only weapon is prayer".

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