Ukrainian refugees cross the border in Barabas, Hungary Ukrainian refugees cross the border in Barabas, Hungary  (AFP or licensors)

Russia pounds eastern Ukraine in latest phase of offensive

Ukraine's president says a long-awaited Russian offensive in the east has begun. Meanwhile Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő upholds the work of Catholic charities and other organizations engaged in welcoming those fleeing the conflict.

By Stefan J. Bos

Ukrainian authorities fat Russian forces are attacking Ukrainian positions along the entire 300-mile (480 kilometers) front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Moscow claims to have struck more than 1,000 targets overnight after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the Russian offensive in the east had begun.

Russian army spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, “rocket troops carried out strikes against 1,260 military targets.” He added that “they hit 25 Ukrainian military command posts in the towns of Mykolaiv and Golubivka,” as well as many other sites. 

Russian-backed fighters were also reportedly trying to storm an industrial complex in the besieged city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops and civilians were said to hide. 

However, Ukrainian forces were making some successful counter-attacks south of Kharkiv, military analysts said. Yet it became clear Tuesday that the Ukrainian troops face tough battles ahead. 

In Ukraine’s Southeast, villagers are desperate, including in the village of Kamianske. “My sister and her husband were killed,” said villager Halya Steblyuk as she wiped the tears from her face. “I can’t talk, right along this street. We buried them as dogs get buried,” she said, her voice trembling. 

While the Russian military’s focus appears on the east, Russian troops have also struck several cities across the country, including even Lviv in the west. 

Cardinal Erdő thanks Hungarian charities 

That has added concerns that more refugees will join the millions already fleeing the conflict. Yet, in neighboring Hungary, several church leaders stressed they would await them with open arms. 

Among them is Hungarian Cardinal Péter Erdő, who said in an Easter season statement that Jesus “sacrificing his own life restores peace between the world and its Creator and makes peace an obligation for man.” That’s why Erdő highlighted the work of the Catholic Charity helping Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and called special attention to children among them. 

He said it was important that their schooling should not be interrupted “or else their chances in life could irreversibly diminish.” 

He said some 200 teachers in Catholic schools have volunteered to teach Ukrainian children, and several schools in and outside Budapest started classes for children speaking Ukrainian or Russian only. Erdo stressed, “an ecumenical relationship” between the Catholic Church and the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox churches. 

Erdő noted Pope Francis’s recent calls for peace and said, “we believe in the strength of prayer... we allow the people we pray for into our hearts.” 

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
19 April 2022, 17:29