17 January 2023, The Tablet

Ukraine archbishop deplores Russian 'terrorism'

A missile attack on a residential complex in the eastern city of Dnipro killed at least 40 civilians and left 75 injured.

Ukraine archbishop deplores Russian 'terrorism'

Ukrainian emergency services search through the rubble for survivors of a Russian missile attack on an apartment block in Dnipro on 14 January.
SOPA Images Ltd/Alamy

The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has accused Moscow of using terrorism against his country, after at least 40 civilians were killed and dozens injured in a missile attack on an apartment block. 

The attack has prompted renewed calls from Western governments for Russian leaders to face war crimes charges. 

“Rescue operations continued for over 40 hours after this horrific terrorist attack – let us pray for those saving lives, help the wounded and ask eternal rest for innocent people killed by these Russian murderers,” said Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych.

“Although we are experiencing many dramas, and have been warned of new damage to Ukraine's energy system and prolonged power outages, we nevertheless want our voice to be heard by the whole world as we tirelessly declare that we are alive. Ukraine remains, fights and prays.”

The Church leader issued the message on Monday as final efforts were made to find dozens still missing after the weekend attack on the multi-storey residential complex in the eastern city of Dnipro, which also left 75 injured, including 14 children.

He said Russian forces had launched 16 separate attacks in 24 hours, following dozens of weekend missile strikes, causing “rivers of human blood to flow” as Church clergy did everything possible to “save the local civilian population, evacuate the wounded and honour the dead with dignity”. 

Ukrainian officials confirmed on Monday that the Dnipro complex had been wrecked by a Russian Kh-22 missile, designed for naval combat, causing one of the worst death-tolls since the February 2022 invasion, although Moscow denied attacking civilians.

Addressing pilgrims in Rome on Sunday, after giving his blessing to a new Vatican aid transport of thermal clothes and power generators to Zaporizhzhia, the Pope urged Catholics not to “forget the tormented Ukrainian people, who are suffering greatly”. 

Meanwhile, the targeting of civilians was denounced on Monday by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, whose 352-member denominations represent more than 580 million Christians from 120 countries. It reiterated that Russia was waging an “illegal war” against “the sovereign nation of Ukraine” and violating “international humanitarian law”.

The WCC demanded “an end to this war and its violent violations of law and morality”.

However, Russia's United Nations envoy, Vasiliy Nebenza, accused President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of establishing an “authoritarian dictatorship” and summoned a UN Security Council debate for Tuesday on legislation before the Ukrainian parliament to ban Orthodox communities maintaining loyalty to the Moscow Patriarchate on national security grounds.

He added that attempts “to destroy the only canonical church in Ukraine”, whose premises have faced police raids since November, would have “serious consequences for regional peace and security”. 

Addressing the press in Kyiv last Saturday on national priorities following a Ukrainian victory, Archbishop Shevchuk said Catholic leaders would remain preoccupied for some time with “treating the wounds of war”.

But he said they would also push the country's authorities to protect “the uniqueness and dignity of the Ukrainian family”, while ensuring “free and fair elections”. 

“The functioning of democratic institutions in a truly free state will be our common task as a people after this war,” the Greek Catholic leader said.

“If independent courts do not act as a separate branch of government, if we do not have true parliamentarianism genuinely representing the people’s interests in all their diverse political preferences, and if the executive power becomes a tool in the hands of some leader who just pulls the strings, then I think we will quickly lose support of those partners so actively helping us today.” 

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