Mr. Serhiy Kiral, deputy mayor of Lviv, Ukraine Mr. Serhiy Kiral, deputy mayor of Lviv, Ukraine 

Lviv deputy mayor: Church’s aid for Ukrainians ‘critical’ amid ongoing war

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, Serhiy Kiral, deputy mayor of Lviv, speaks about the ongoing war in Ukraine and the importance of bringing world leaders and the Church together to reach an end to the war and “guarantee peace.”

By Sophie Peeters and Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Since 24 February, life for all Ukrainians has drastically changed.

Millions of Ukrainians fled the country as refugees, passing through the city of Lviv, Ukraine, to reach safety after Russia launched its renewed invasion of the country.

Serhiy Kiral, deputy mayor of Lviv, told Vatican News’ Fr. Benedict Mayaki in an interview that his city has been a hotspot for war refugees trying to cross into Western Europe.

Mr. Kiral is currently in Bali, Indonesia, for the G20 intergovernmental forum, which brings together world leaders to discuss major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.

Providing crucial aid to those suffering from war

During the first few months of the war, Mr. Kiral said, his city was at the front lines of the conflict, with days when 70,000 people packed into the Lviv train stations attempting to flee the country.

Mr. Kiral said his city responded with the help of thousands of volunteers to offer support to refugees, transforming administrative buildings into shelters and accommodation, and providing necessary care services with hospitals working day and night.

Now, after nine months since the outbreak of the expanded war, Mr. Kiral said more support is needed as the war grinds on.

The mayor of the city therefore established the National Rehabilition Center called “Unbroken” to provide aid to civilians and the military suffering from physical and psychological consequences of the war.

“This rehabilitation center will be about providing modern prosthetics, but also physical rehabilitation, psychological rehabilitation and other services. And we look forward to attracting and mobilizing international partnerships and also funding to implement it.”

‘Our last chance’

Amidst the backdrop of the G20 meeting, Mr. Kiral said he hopes that “all the world will stand by Ukraine.” He also hopes there will be no “pressure on Ukraine to sit down and talk any peace with Russia until Russia withdraws.”

Until Russian leaves Ukraine and recognizes “all the war crimes it committed in Ukraine and pays reparations to the Ukrainian people” there cannot be “any sustainable peace,” Mr. Kiral said.

Reflecting on the history of conflict in Ukraine, Mr. Kiral said the war “actually” began in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the occupation of Donbas, in addition to the decades of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Famine, discrimination, and imprisonment, all belong to the “century-long strategy to deprive Ukraine of its ethnicity and its right to exist,” he noted. “We consider this to be our last chance.”

Church’s role in providing aid

Asked about the efforts of the Church to provide support for Ukraine and its people, Mr. Kiral said Church organizations, particularly the Caritas Foundation, and religious men and women belonging to the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches, have been “critical” in providing humanitarian support and aid in welcoming refugees all over Europe.

“This is a very strong message that the Church sends to the world,” he said.

This support, he continued, needs to be sustained, as the need for aid will continue to grow over the coming months.

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14 November 2022, 14:47