A view of a church behind destroyed buildings in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine A view of a church behind destroyed buildings in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine 

Ukraine war: Churches and cities destroyed

Ukraine's President has urged Russia to end attacks on his nation after a famed Orthodox Church was destroyed and explosions rocked the capital Kyiv once again. 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.

By Stefan J. Bos

With tens of thousands of people killed and millions forced to flee their homes since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine in late February, friends and foes hope negotiations will end the escalating war. 

There was some hope that a sense of normality had returned to Kyiv, but even there, Pentecost celebrations were interrupted by explosions and smoke seen over the capital. 

Residents drive and walk through the center while smoke billows over the city. Kyiv's Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said several explosions rocked the west of the center - in the Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts. 

Moscow said 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.

Some of the fiercest fighting is currently taking place in the city of Severodonetsk. And Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation there remained "extremely difficult" with war being waged street by street. 

He said he still hopes Russia will halt the fighting and serious talks can start. "This can no longer be fixed because the war is already going on. But the terrible consequences of this war can be stopped at any moment," he said.   

Russia used as "scapegoat"

Putin 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 said.  
But there are no signs the fighting will end any time soon. 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 war.

Churches shelled

Churches are suffering too this Pentecost season. 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 was reportedly burnt down as a result of shelling over the weekend.

The sprawling, 17th-century monastic settlement, which sits 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 has accused Russia of "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.

06 June 2022, 12:59