Putin turns 70 with a prayer for his health amid war crisis
President Vladimir Putin turned 70 on Friday amid fawning congratulations from subordinates and a plea from Orthodox Patriarch Kirill for all to pray for the health of the longest-serving paramount leader of Russia since Josef Stalin.
Putin is facing the biggest challenge of his rule after the invasion of Ukraine triggered the gravest confrontation with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. His army there is reeling from a series of defeats in the past month.
Officials hailed Putin as the saviour of modern Russia while the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia implored the country to say two days of special prayers so that God grants Putin “health and longevity”.
“We pray to you, our Lord God, for the head of the Russian state, Vladimir Vladimirovich, and ask you to give him your rich mercy and generosity, grant him health and longevity, and deliver him from all the resistances of visible and invisible enemies, confirm him in wisdom and spiritual strength, for all, Lord hear and have mercy,” Kirill said.
Putin, who promised to end the chaos which gripped Russia after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, is facing the most serious military crisis any Kremlin chief has faced for at least a generation since the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89.
Opponents such as jailed opposition leader Alexey Navalny say that Putin has led Russia down a dead end towards ruin, building a brittle system of incompetent sycophants that will ultimately collapse and bequeath chaos.
Supporters say Putin saved Russia from destruction by an arrogant and aggressive West.
“Today, our national leader, one of the most influential and outstanding personalities of our time, the number one patriot in the world, president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, turns 70 years old,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said.
“Putin has changed the global position of Russia and forced the world to reckon with the position of our great state.”
But the war in Ukraine has forced Putin to burn through vast amounts of political, diplomatic and military capital.