A Russian priest who encouraged women to have more babies so they would feel less distressed about sending their sons to fight in Ukraine has been killed on the battlefield, according to the Russian Orthodox Church announcement Sunday.
Archpriest Mikhail Vasilyev died “while carrying out his pastoral duties in the area of special military operation in Ukraine on the morning of November 6,” the church said in a statement.
Vasilyev, 51, died of injuries sustained when shrapnel exploded from a US-supplied HIMARS missile launcher, according to social media Publish by the 76th Guards Air Assault Division of Airborne Troops.
The archpriest had served in the Church of St. Barbara the Great Martyr and Venerable Ilya Muromets outside Moscow. The church provides spiritual assistance to Russia’s strategic missile forces – which operate the army’s nuclear arsenal – and conducts tactical training exercises as part of a local military and patriotic club.
Vasilyev also served as an adviser to the senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church responsible for cooperation with the armed forces.
The church said in a statement that Vasilyev had visited several conflict zones as part of his service, including Syria, Chechnya, Kosovo and Bosnia.
In late October, Vasilyev came to media attention for a TV interview where he advised Russian women to “thrive and multiply” in the face of President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization orders for war in Ukraine.
“So she wouldn’t find it so painful and terrifying to part with her children,” Vasilyev Told the Church-affiliated Spas television channel.
He is at least the third member of the Russian Orthodox Church has been killed since President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade Ukraine in February.
The Church has vigorously supported the war in Ukraine under Putin’s ally, Patriarch Kirill, who is under British and Canadian sanctions.