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Putin Fetes Russian Religious Founder Prince Vladimir

Russian President Vladimir Putin July 28 marked 1,000 years since the death of Prince Vladimir, the Orthodox saint credited with bringing Christianity to the country in the Middle Ages.

"By stopping fratricidal wars, crushing external enemies, Prince Vladimir laid down the foundation for creating a single Russian nation and paved the way for the construction of a strong, centralized Russian state," Putin said at ceremony in the Kremlin alongside the head of Russia's Orthodox church.

"He built his country on the principle of love for homeland," Putin said, converting Kievan Rus -- the forerunner of modern Russia, Ukraine and Belarus -- to the Christian ideals of good, truth, and equality.

Russia and Ukraine, which both have Orthodox traditions, have been locked in a bitter battle over Moscow's annexation of Crimea last year and its support for a pro-Russian insurgency.

In December, Putin claimed that Crimea for Russians was "like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for followers of Islam and Judaism," since Prince Vladimir was baptized there.

Patriarch Kirill of the Orthodox Church said that the conflict in Ukraine showed the need for Slavic unity preached by Prince Vladimir.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS