For three weeks Kyivites have been sleeping in their corridors or bathrooms. The most indefatigable have grab bags ready for when they go to spend the night sitting or lying in bomb shelters or deep in one of Kyiv’s metro stations. When morning comes, cafes open and people go to work as if the war doesn’t exist. For how long can this go on, and how does it affect the human psyche? For people who have remained in Ukraine, anger and hatred towards Russia and all Russians must be growing daily

Meanwhile, there are various signs that some Russians do oppose the war – not in public and usually only at night when everyone is asleep. For example, in Novosibirsk one night in the early hours of May 15, on the fence of an Orthodox church dedicated to the new holy martyrs of Russia, somebody wrote the words “Thou shalt not kill.”

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This is, of course, a direct quote from the Old Testament’s ten commandments. However, in the Russian news, the inscription was called "provocative", and a representative of Novosibirsk city described what had happened as "an act of barbarism and lawlessness."

The police and Russian special services are looking for the author of the inscription, but the results of the search have not yet been reported.

At the same time, in mid-May, a church court in Moscow defrocked a priest by the name of Ioann Koval, who served in the church of St. Andrew in the Moscow district of Lyublino. Koval was found guilty of making an unsanctioned change to the "Prayer for Holy Rus'", which has been read during services in all orthodox churches in Russia, since the beginning of Russia’s aggression.  He replaced the word "victory" with the word "peace". For this, the priest has been expelled from the church and, most likely, his problems will not end there.

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May has been rich in news concerning Russia’s spiritual life. At the beginning of the month, Putin sent two identical icons to two areas of the fighting in Ukraine – to the south and to the east. Each icon is accompanied by a priest who must take the icon to all Russian military locations, including the front-line trenches and dugouts. Except for Muslim soldiers, each Russian combatant will be able to touch the holy image with their lips so that the icon can imbue them with confidence in Russia’s victory.

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Father Vyacheslav, who is accompanying one of the icons across the southern territory, believes that it will take him more than a month to visit all the Russian troop locations in the area. Commenting on the reaction among the troops, he said: “To see this image, received from the hands of the President, in their dugouts is, of course, an honor and joy.”

According to the plan, both icons and their attendants should meet at one point on the front line. Surely, the priests will look for an undamaged church in which to hold a solemn service, during which no one will dare to replace the word “victory” with the word “peace”. But, as far as I know few, if any, churches anywhere near the front line have survived the terrible devastation.

Perhaps the priests and the Russian military will have to be content with a religious procession along the sad streets of some ruined settlement. They may decide that it is prudent to hold the service in a bunker. After all, the entire front line is the target of artillery fire day and night.

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While the Russians look for a quiet spot to reflect on the mystical messages exuding from Putin’s icons, some of the projectiles fired at them from Ukrainian guns carry a rather different kind of message – words inscribed on their metal surfaces.

While not strictly in accordance with military procedure, nobody would associate these short texts with "barbarism and lawlessness." On the contrary, the inscriptions on the shells and multiple-launch rockets help Ukrainian gunners to expend some of their pent-up emotions. Most often they write the names of their dead comrades or the names of cities and villages destroyed by the Russian army: “For brother Kolya”, “For Bakhmut”, “For Irpin”.

Russian gunners also write messages and threats on shells and these battlefield telegrams have been flying in both directions for some time, but recently, on the Ukrainian side, this activity has transformed into an international movement that can bring tangible help to the army. 

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Several Internet sites now allow you to order your own inscription on a projectile that will fly toward Russian positions. The service is reasonably priced - from $40 to $250. In return, the “customer” receives a photo showing the inscription they chose already embossed on the projectile and sometimes even a video showing the very moment that the missile was launched at the enemy. Naturally, the money received for the inscriptions goes to help the Ukrainian army.

This method of killing several “birds” with one missile was, apparently, devised by a 22-year-old student from Cherkasy, Anton Sokolenko. Having realized that many of his friends were serving in the army, including in the artillery forces, he created some internet advertising which suggested the possibility of “congratulating” the occupiers with a choice message. He was surprised by the enthusiastic response to his initiative. It turned out to be reasonably simple to negotiate with Ukrainian soldiers about “the production end” of the project.  Apparently, the junior commanders had nothing against it.  The higher authorities were not informed about it initially, but they soon caught on. Officially, nobody gave permission for this type of fundraising, but no one forbade it either.

 Sokolenko is now a registered volunteer and works with the NGO "Center for Assistance to the Army, Veterans, and Their Families". With the money received from shell telegrams, he has already bought two Starlink systems, a jeep, and a night vision device for the Ukrainian army.

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The inscriptions on the shells are becoming increasingly diverse and some are quite memorable, if a little ‘off the wall’, such as one I saw recently that said: "From Albania, with love".

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