By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Russia to “stop burning churches” and end attacks on his nation after a famed Orthodox Church was destroyed while explosions rocked the capital Kyiv, overshadowing Pentecost celebrations. Heavy street battles also raged in a strategic city in Ukraine’s east that Russian forces want to capture as part of an ongoing invasion.
“The Russian army can stop burning down churches. The Russian army can stop destroying cities. The Russian army can stop killing children if one person in Moscow simply gives such an order. And the fact that there is still no such order is obviously a humiliation for the whole world,” Zelensky stressed in video footage monitored by Worthy News.
He spoke while Russian and Ukrainian military officers blamed each other for a fire that destroyed a historic wooden church at the Sviatohirsk Lavra monastery, one of Ukraine’s most famed Orthodox Christian sites. The all-wood All Saints Shrine in the village of Tetianivka burnt down as a result of shelling over the weekend, Ukrainian authorities said.
The sprawling, 17th-century monastic settlement on the bank of the Siverskiy Donets River was hit several times during the war, including Wednesday, when two monks and a nun were killed. President Zelensky blamed Russia for “deliberately and systematically destroying Ukrainian
culture and its historical heritage.” He said 113 churches were damaged or destroyed during the invasion, including some that survived the battles of the Second World War.
As fighting continued, Pope Francis reiterated his wishes to visit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv but cautioned he was waiting for the right time.
On Saturday, Francis expressed this desire while talking to a Ukrainian child who was one of some 160 children of various religious backgrounds from the outskirts of Italian cities invited to the Vatican. Sachar, a child from Ukraine who fled to Rome, asked: “I don’t have a question but rather a request: can you come to Ukraine to save all the children who are suffering there now?”
The pope told Sachar, “I think a lot about children in Ukraine,” and for this reason, he noted, “I have sent some cardinals to help there and be close to all the people, but above all, to the children.” He added: “I would like to go to Ukraine. But, I have to wait for the right time to do it because it is not easy to make a decision that could do more harm to the whole world than good.” He said he would meet this week with representatives of Ukraine’s government to “talk about a possible visit of mine there. Let’s see what happens.”
EXPLOSIONS ROCK KYIV
The pope previously canceled a meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who he accused of not distancing himself from the Russian invasion. With tens of thousands of people killed and millions forced to flee their homes since Russia launched an attack on Ukraine in late February, Francis wants negotiations to end the escalating war.
But his plans to visit Kyiv could be undermined by the rapidly changing security situation. On Sunday, plumes of smoke billowed over the capital as Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko said several explosions rocked the west of the center – in the Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts. Moscow confirmed it had used long-range high-precision missiles to “target tanks supplied by Eastern European nations.”.
And Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened “to strike targets we haven’t hit before” if western countries supply Ukraine with longer-range missiles. He also said that Western countries use Russia as a scapegoat for rising food and energy prices. However, he claimed these problems had nothing to do with Russia but Western policies. “When our operation in Ukraine began, the Europeans and the Americans…aggravated the situation, both in the food and fertilizers sector,” he stressed.
Some of the fiercest fighting is currently in the city of Severodonetsk. And Ukraine’s President Zelensky said the situation there remained “extremely difficult” with combat being waged street by street. Capturing Severodonetsk would deliver the Luhansk region to Russian forces and their local separatist allies, controlling much of neighboring Donetsk.
They are part of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, its industrial heartland that Russia seems eager to control despite a mounting death toll on all sides of this devastating conflict.
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