Pope prays for Ukraine as EU condemns attacks on civilian infrastructure
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
As he has repeatedly done in recent times, Pope Francis once again reiterated his appeal for Ukraine during the Wednesday General Audience.
“We turn our thoughts to martyred Ukraine,” said the Pope, inviting prayers for an end to the “horrible things that are happening there, the torture, the deaths [and] the destruction.”
The latest reports from Ukraine say that more than a thousand towns and villages remain without power after Russian attacks in recent days.
Russian missiles crashed into Ukrainian energy facilities, as several explosions were heard in northern Kyiv, where there is a thermal power station.
Kyiv says that in recent days, some 30 percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed by Russia.
The cities of Dnipro, Mykolaiv, and Zhytomyr were also targeted, adding to concerns the death toll will further rise following other deadly drone and missile strikes that have killed many people since Monday.
European Commission condemns attacks
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, denounced Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Speaking to the European Parliament, she said: “Russia's targeted attacks on civilian infrastructure are marking a new chapter in an already cruel war. The international order is clear. These are war crimes.”
She stressed that the attacks “with the clear aim to cut off men, women, and children of water, electricity, and heating as winter approaches” are “acts of pure terror and we have to call it as such.”
Independent Commission report
The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine presented its first report to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, and indicated that there are “grounds to conclude that an array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in the country.”
In a statement, the Commission stressed that there is an undeniable need for accountability as “the impact of these violations on the civilian population in Ukraine is immense.”
The Commission based its investigations on events in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy regions in late February and March 2022. It visited 27 towns and settlements and interviewed 191 victims and witnesses.
The report documented attacks where explosives were used indiscriminately in populated areas that were under attack by Russian forces. The commission also noted examples of both parties to the fighting, to different degrees, failing to protect civilians or civilian objects against the effect of the attacks, by locating military objects and forces within or near densely populated areas.
Other issues highlighted were summary executions, unlawful confinement, torture, ill-treatment, rape, and other sexual violence committed by Russian forces in the four regions on which the Commission’s report was focused.
It notes that “victims emphasized the essential role of justice and accountability” and “family members who lost loved ones have expressed a strong need for justice to be done.”
In this light, the Commission recommended “enhanced coordination of international and national accountability efforts to improve effectiveness and prevent harm to victims and witnesses.”