Church says Russia fighting 'holy battle' in Syria
Russia's powerful Orthodox Church on Wednesday voiced support for Moscow's decision to carry out airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State group, calling it a "holy battle".
"The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it," said the head of the Church's public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, quoted by Interfax news agency.
Chaplin explicitly said the Church backs Russia's decision to deploy its airforce in Syria to attack Islamic State.
"This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East," Chaplin said.
A senior Muslim cleric also backed the military intervention, saying Syrians are "practically our neighbours."
"We fully back the use of a contingent of Russian armed forces in the battle against international terrorism," said Talgat Tadzhuddin, head of the Central Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Russia, in comments to RIA Novosti state news agency.
A council representing Russia's main religions - Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism - will release a joint statement on Russia's role in Syria, Chaplin said.
"In this statement, we will support the decision that was taken by our government."
Russia's Orthodox Church, after years of repression under the Soviets, has regained much of its influence and built up close ties with the government despite a formal separation of Church and state. President Vladimir Putin is regularly depicted attending services.