Putin and Medvedev issued Easter messages to Russians

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent Easter greetings to the nation as Russian Orthodox Church prepared to celebrate one of the holiest days in its calendar Sunday.

"The Easter festival holds a special place in the spiritual life of Russian society..." said Medvedev in a statement issued overnight by the Kremlin. He noted in particular the symbolism of the fact that this year Christians of all denominations - Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox - celebrated Easter on the same day. Their cooperation for peace and mutual understanding would contribute to the more harmonious interethnic and interconfessional relations, he added.

Putin, in his message, congratulated the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia for the "enormous" role the Orthodox Church had played in the "renaissance of national traditions and the consolidation of society." He expressed the wish that Easter would "bring peace and love into every home", in statement issued by his office.

Russian television pictures showed Putin, Medvedev and his wife Svetlana attending the Easter service at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour together.

During the service, Medvedev presented the patriarch with a large icon of the Virgin Mary, while Kirill offered Medvedev and Putin decorative eggs, symbols of the Orthodox Easter.