A priest believed to have close ties to Vladimir Putin, who told mothers to have more children over the number of Russian casualties, has died while on the front line in Ukraine. Ecclesiastical and military sources reported over the weekend that Mikhail Vasiliev was killed by shrapnel from an exploding shell.
The military cleric courted controversy after he suggested that Russian mothers who worried about their sons dying in the conflict should have more children.
Nearly nine months into the invasion, Putin’s armed forces have suffered heavy losses due to disorganisation, miscommunication and strategic blunders.
After the Russian President announced the mobilisation of a further 300,000 fighting-age men, hundreds of thousands have fled the country, while reports emerge of poorly-trained and ill-equipped recruits being sent to the front line within days of enlisting.
Instead of providing much-needed reinforcements to the exhausted and demoralised fighting forces, reports have emerged of one whole battalion of new recruits being killed in a matter of hours.
READ MORE: Russian priest beats Ukrainian Priest with cross at soldier’s funeral
Born in 1971, he took the sacraments in 1998 and became a military priest, and was present during the conflicts in Chechnya in the early noughties and, more recently, in Syria.
The father-of-six was asked on TV for his reaction to a Russian woman who had spent her life savings getting her son to the Canary Islands to avoid the draft.
He responded: “Well, I understand very well that […] if a lady, fulfilling God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply […] has more than one child, she would not find it so painful and terrifying to part with her children.
“God has permitted every lady to give birth to a lot of children.”
It is unclear whether news of his death was delayed due to disarray on the Russian front line, or if it was supressed.
At the time of his death, Russian ground troops were being forced into humiliating retreats in the east and south of the country.
Despite Putin’s formal annexation of four regions of Ukraine, the defending armed forces have been able to inflict incisive counter-offensives that have pushed the occupying army in the Donbas region.
Meanwhile, in recent days, Russian forces in the south have deserted the port city of Kherson – which the Kremlin has painted as an evacuation.
In the south of the embattled nation, Russian forces are believed by intelligence officials to be digging in on the banks of the Dnipro River as winter sets in.
In the east, the Russian military has effectively been pushed back to the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
Western-supplied missiles, such as the HIMARS rockets, have been instrumental to the successes the Ukrainian armed forces have been able to achieve in recent months.
In the summer, with just a handful of the launchers, Ukrainian forces were able to strike dozens of ammunition depots in Russian-occupied territories, warehouses and strategic infrastructure including the Antonivsky Bridge linking Kherson to Crimea.