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The Shadow of Death: Priests on Front Line in Battle for Ukraine

Image: A priest holds a cross and shield during clashes betwwen anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev
A priest holds a cross and shield during clashes betwwen anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev on February 20, 2014. Ukraine's brittle truce shattered on February 20 in fierce clashes between baton-wielding protesters and riot police that claimed at least 27 lives just as EU envoys were holding crisis talks with the embattled president. Bodies of anti-government demonstrators lay amid smouldering debris after masked protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and stones forced gun-toting police from Kiev's iconic Independence Square -- the epicentre of the ex-Soviet country's three-month-old crisis. AFP - Getty Images

Carrying a cross and — at times — a shield, Orthodox priests have placed themselves in the line of fire amid the turmoil of Ukraine's bloody uprising.

On Thursday, several priests stood alongside protesters in central Kiev, performing blessings and delivering the last rites to those who were killed.

Image: A priest stands in the lobby of the hotel Ukraine near bodies of anti-government protesters killed during clashes with riot police in Kiev
A priest stands in the lobby of the hotel Ukraine near bodies of anti-government protesters killed during clashes with riot police on Feb. 20. DAVID MDZINARISHVILI / Reuters

A short walk uphill from the black smoke and violence of Independence Square, injured protesters lay beneath icons and candles on the floor of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has actively supported the calls of the protesters for Ukraine to shift its alliances west towards the European Union, Reuters reports.

Image: People rest inside Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral, which serves as a temporary shelter and a first-aid post for anti-government protesters, in Kiev
People rest inside Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral (St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery), which serves as a temporary shelter and a first-aid post for anti-government protesters, in Kiev on Feb. 19. DAVID MDZINARISHVILI / Reuters
Image: An Orthodox priest walks under fire during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev
An Orthodox priest walks under fire during clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police in central Kiev on Feb. 20. SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP - Getty Images