PHOTO: An Orthodox bishop blesses Russian missiles for airstrikes in Syria

As Russia continues to deepen its military involvement in Syria, the conflict has increasingly taken on religious dimensions.

In the above photo, an Orthodox bishop blesses Russian missiles intended for airstrikes against Syrian rebels. According to Reuters reporter Noah Browning, the bishop is sprinkling holy water on the missile before it is put aboard a Russian plane.

The blessing of missiles comes after Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared that Russia’s intervention in Syria, which is aimed at the rebels currently aligned against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is a “holy battle.”

“Russia took a responsible decision to use military forces to protect the Syrian people from the woes brought on by the tyranny of terrorists,” the Patriarch said.

Russia has been carrying out a high tempo of airstrikes largely against nationalist Syrian rebels, with few strikes against ISIS, since September 30. Moscow has signalled that it is in for the long haul in the country after having moved large supplies of aircraft, tanks, munitions, and even singers and dancers for entertainment to Syria.

Moscow has declared that its intervention is aimed at defeating ISIS, but maps of Russian airstrikes seem to indicate that Russia is significantly more interested in propping up the Assad regime than destroying the Islamic State.

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