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Putin mocks Church of England’s plan to use gender-neutral terms for God

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pointed to the Church of England

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pointed to the Church of England’s recent decision to explore gender-neutral terms for God as evidence that the West is heading for a ‘spiritual catastrophe’.

Delivering a state-of-the-nation address to the Russian people today, Putin railed against perceived Western stupidity and said the West was waging a culture war against Russian Orthodox Christian values.

‘The Anglican Church plans to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God… Millions of people in the West understand they are being led to a real spiritual catastrophe,’ Putin declared.

He went on to accuse Western nations of changing historical facts to suit ‘woke‘ ideologies and staunchly criticised the Church’s recent discussions on allowing priests to ‘bless’ same-sex marriages.

‘They distort historical facts, constantly attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church, and other traditional religions of our country. 

‘Look at what they do with their own peoples: the destruction of the family, cultural and national identity, perversion, and the abuse of children are declared the norm. And priests are forced to bless same-sex marriages,’ Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pointed to the Church of England’s recent decision to explore gender-neutral terms for God as evidence that the West is heading for a ‘spiritual catastrophe’

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby listens during a discussion at The Church House on February 09, 2023 in London, England

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he gives his annual state of the nation address in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023

The Church of England earlier this month announced it was considering alternatives to referring to God as ‘he’ after priests asked to be allowed to use gender-neutral terms instead.

Any potential alterations, which would mark a departure from traditional Jewish and Christian teachings dating back millennia, would have to be approved by synod, the Church’s decision-making body.

It is currently unclear what would replace the term Our Father in the Lord’s Prayer, the central Christian prayer which Jesus Christ is said to have instructed his followers to say together down the generations.

Rev Dr Ian Paul earlier this month told The Telegraph that any change would represent an abandonment of the Church’s own doctrine: ‘The fact that God is called ”Father” can’t be substituted by ”Mother” without changing meaning, nor can it be gender-neutralised to ”Parent” without loss of meaning,’ he said.

Putin’s speech in Moscow today was not limited to hammering Western religious and cultural doctrine.

He also accused the West of starting the war in Ukraine and of trying to turn it into a global conflict against Russia to gain ‘limitless power’ – a statement condemned by Ukraine and the United States as ‘absurd’.

‘We were doing everything possible to solve this problem peacefully, negotiating a peaceful way out of this difficult conflict, but behind our backs a very different scenario was being prepared,’ Putin told lawmakers in Russia’s parliament.

He said he was addressing them ‘at a time which we all know is a difficult, watershed moment for our country, a time of cardinal, irreversible changes around the world, the most important historic events that will shape the future of our country and our people,’ and vowed to ‘systematically’ continue with the offensive in Ukraine.

Ukraine quickly hit back at the Russian leader, with presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak saying the speech demonstrated the ‘hopelessness of [Putin’s] position’ and that he was ‘in a completely different reality’.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said there is ‘a kind of absurdity in the notion that Russia was under some form of military threat from Ukraine or anyone else,’ hours before president Joe Biden is set to give a speech of his own in Warsaw.

The United States has slammed the ‘absurdity’ of Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation speech on Tuesday (pictured), in which he accused the West of starting the war in Ukraine and of trying to turn it into a global conflict against Russia to gain ‘limitless power’ 

Attendees wait for the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow, Russia February 21, 2023

A family watches a TV broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation address in Moscow on February 21

‘This was a war of choice Putin chose to fight it. He could have chosen not to. And he can choose even now to end it, to go home. Nobody is attacking Russia,’ he added. 

Putin’s address comes days before the war in Ukraine passes the one-year mark on Friday. Putin ordered his forces into the country on February 24, 2022 in what the Kremlin calls a ‘special military operation’ instead of a war.

Since then, tens of thousands of men have been killed, and Putin, 70, now says Russia is locked in an existential battle with an arrogant West which he claims – without evidence – wants to carve up Russia and steal its vast natural resources.

The West and Ukraine reject that narrative, and say NATO expansion eastwards is no justification for what they say is an imperial-style land grab doomed to failure. It was Russia that was the aggressor and who attacked Ukraine unprovoked, they say.

Putin levelled several accusations at the Western world, claiming Ukraine’s allies were trying to change the conflict into a global one to gain ultimate power, and that they were trying to divide Russian society.

Flanked by four Russian tricolour flags on either side of him, Putin also vowed Russia would press on with the invasion – which the Kremlin had expected to last a matter of days culminating in the overthrow of Kyiv’s government.

‘Step by step we will carefully and systematically solve the aims that face us,’ he said.

The West, Putin said, had let the genie out of the bottle in a host of regions across the world by sowing chaos and war.

‘The people of Ukraine themselves have become hostages of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, who have actually occupied this country in a political, military, and economic sense,’ Putin said. Defeating Russia, he said, was impossible.

The West is aware that ‘it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield,’ so it launches ‘aggressive information attacks’ by ‘misconstruing historical facts,’ attacking Russian culture, religion and values, Putin claimed.

Citing another justification he has used for the war, Putin claimed his forces are protecting civilians in regions of Ukraine that Moscow has since illegally annexed.

‘We are defending people’s lives, our home,’ he said. ‘And the West is striving for an unlimited domination.’

Putin framed fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region between Kyiv’s forces and Russian-backed separatists as a fight for freedom. Fighting there has been on-going since 2014, and has been used by Putin as justification to launch the larger offensive.

A Ukrainian squad launches one of four rockets at a Russian infantry position from their BM-21 Grad 122mm multiple rocket launcher, in the southern Donbas region, Ukraine, on February 20, 2023

A Ukrainian officer who gave the name Yuri stands beside a dugout bunker in the southern Donbas region, Ukraine, on February 20, 2023

Ukrainian armored carrier moves on tin the city of Bakhmut amid Russia-Ukraine war in Donbas, Ukraine on February 20, 2023

Ukrainian artillery team member Mykola lifts captured 152mm shells for their 152mm cannon, which they call Revenge and captured from Russian troops in Kherson early in the war, as Ukrainian forces prepare for an expected Russian offensive, in the southern Donbas region, Ukraine, on February 19, 2023

‘Starting from 2014, the Donbas has been fighting [for the] right to live in one’s one land and speak its native language, fighting without surrender in the environment of constant threats and hatred that was coming from the Kyiv regime,’ he said.

‘Meanwhile, and you know it very well, we were doing everything possible, really everything possible, to settle that problem by peaceful means,’ he claimed.

‘We were patiently negotiating about a peaceful exit from that hardest conflict but behind our back, quite a different scenario was being prepared, the promises of Western leaders, their assurances about their adherence to peace turned out as a fraud. A cruel lie. They were just playing for time.’ 

The Russian despot also said that he understood how difficult it was for relatives of Russian soldiers who had died fighting in Ukraine, and said he would provide them ‘targeted support’ with a new special fund. Britain’s MoD has estimated that there have been as many as 200,000 dead or wounded Russian soldiers in the last year.

‘We all understand, I understand how unbearably hard it is now for the wives, sons, daughters of fallen soldiers, their parents, who raised worthy defenders of the Fatherland,’ Putin told lawmakers.

He asked the audience, which included lawmakers, soldiers, spy chiefs and state company bosses, to stand to remember those who had lost their lives in the war.

He also threatened any Russian dissenters. ‘Those who have embarked on the path of betrayal of Russia must be held accountable under the law,’ Putin said, adding that authorities would not unleash a ‘witch hunt’ against dissenters.

Putin’s armoured motorcade was spotted heading to the Kremlin at around 1am local time this moring, with traffic stopped in central Moscow to make way. There was no official explanation for Putin’s late night dash to the Kremlin ahead of the speech. 

While the Constitution mandates that the president deliver the speech annually, Putin never gave one in 2022, as his troops suffered repeated setbacks.

Underscoring the anticipation ahead of time, some state TV channels put out a countdown for the event starting Monday, and Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday morning said the address may be ‘historic.’

The Kremlin this year has barred media from ‘unfriendly’ countries, the list of which includes the US, the UK and those in the EU.

Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya) officers stand guard behind metal barriers set on Red Square prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation address, in central Moscow on February 21, 2023

Putin’s speech came a day after US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday, in which he walked through the city with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky

The invasion is by far the biggest bet by a Kremlin chief since at least the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union – and a gamble Western leaders such as Biden say he must lose.

Russian forces have suffered three major battlefield reversals since the war began but still control around one fifth of Ukraine. Russia is currently trying to secure full control of two eastern provinces forming Ukraine’s Donbas industrial region. 

It has sent thousands of conscripts into Ukraine for a winter offensive but has secured only scant gains so far in assaults in frozen trenches up and down the eastern front in recent weeks.

Kyiv and the West see it as a push to give Putin victories to trumpet a year after he launched Europe’s biggest conflict since World War Two.

Biden will also make a speech a few hours later in Poland, which promises to offer a starkly differing take on Russia’s invasion. He met Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday – pledging fresh arms deliveries and ‘unwavering’ support.

Ukraine says any diplomatic solution requires the withdrawal of Russian forces from its territory, including Crimea – which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

While Biden was in Kyiv, the State Department announced a further $460 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, including $450 million worth of artillery ammunition, anti-armour systems and air defence radars, and $10 million for energy infrastructure. 

Biden travelled to Ukraine’s capital by overnight train from Poland, arriving after roughly 10 hours at 8am on Monday, before returning there the same way.

‘One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,’ Biden said at the Mariinsky Palace, the Ukrainian president’s official residence, on Monday.

And on Tuesday, from Warsaw’s historic Royal Castle, Biden will ‘make it clear that the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine… for as long as it takes’, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

‘You’ll hear messages in the president’s speech that will certainly resonate with the American people, certainly will resonate with our allies and partners, without question resonate with the Polish people,’ Kirby said of the Warsaw address.

‘And I would suspect that you’ll hear him messaging Mr Putin as well, as well as the Russian people.’ 

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