war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Russian Orthodox church repeats Kremlin lies about its barbaric bombing of Odesa Cathedral and city centre

Halya Coynash
“I saw that the Russian missile that you blessed had struck right in the altar, the holiest of places”.. It is not only Odesa Archbishop Viktor who is appalled by the support Moscow patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev) is giving to Russia’s war against Ukraine
The Odesa Transfiguration Cathedral after Russia’s missile strike Photo Dumskaya
The Odesa Transfiguration Cathedral after Russia’s missile strike Photo Dumskaya

Archbishop Viktor of the Odesa Diocese has sent a bitter address to Moscow Patriarch Kirill (Gundyaev) and the members of the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.  It is through Kirill’s personal blessing, he writes, that Russian soldiers are waging war against Ukraine and committing atrocities.  He accuses Gundyaev and his people of blessing the military men who kill those they supposedly view as their ‘children’ in Ukraine.  The Archbishop was writing after viewing the devastation caused by the latest wave of savage Russian bombing during the early hours of 23 July.   These not only struck at residential blocks, killing at least one civilian and leaving others wounded and homeless, but also devastated the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa and caused major damage to at least 25 architectural monuments in the historic centre of Odesa.  “I saw that the Russian missile that you blessed had struck right in the altar, the holiest of places”, the Archbishop writes.

Each missile attack on a hospital, school or residential building is in itself an act of barbarism, nonetheless the direct bombing of a cathedral aroused outrage and revulsion far beyond Ukraine.  The missiles strikes were strongly condemned by UNESCO which had, on 25 January 2023, inscribed Odesa on its World Heritage List “”in the face of threats of destruction”.   UNESCO proved powerless against Moscow’s barbarism.  It was no accident that at least one of the survivors told western journalists that Russia is avenging itself against Ukrainian civilians as it has been unable to destroy the country.  A witness to the catastrophic damage caused to the Cathedral could scarcely hold back tears as he described what had happened and bitterly ‘thanked’ the Russians who claimed to be ‘brothers’ for bombing “the very heart of the city”.

The Archbishop began his letter by pointing out that his Diocese had decided in late May to withdraw its affiliation to the Moscow Patriarchate.  It is the Russian Orthodox Church that has brought this on, with Kirill essentially making no secret of his full support for Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.   He has even claimed that those Russians who are killed fighting in Ukraine can be considered to have had their sins wiped clean.

Moscow has reacted as always by denying involvement and claiming that it was a Ukrainian air defence missile that hit the Cathedral.  The Russian Orthodox Church has effectively endorsed this lie, through its report in which it talks throughout about an anonymous “missile strike” and gives only the official Moscow version in total betrayal of those Odesa believers who, until recently, continued to worship at the Cathedral under the Moscow Patriarchate.

Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky has pointed out the sheer absurdity of such denials in the light of open calls to wipe Odesa from the face of the earth on Russian state propaganda channels.  You can hear Olga Skabeeva asking for a few words of commentary about Odesa, saying “We’re of course not aggressors, but we watch with satisfaction how, for the third night in a row, we carry out strikes, as we were told, strikes in revenge.”  She and the audience are told that this is “surgical intervention, we are curing that territory of Nazism”.  On the notorious talk show with Vladimir Solovyov, he talks of destroying Kyiv, the next mentions Lviv (for destruction) and another says Odesa.  The myth in Russia was always that Odesa is a “Russian city”, and one of the propagandists says that no, we’ll preserve Odesa, only for Solovyov to disagree – “”No, sorry, we’ll destroy it and then rebuild it. That will be much simpler”.  Kazansky is not alone in finding it baffling that Russian state television can openly call for such destruction, and yet Moscow then claims that, no, no, it wasn’t us, with this claim then parroted by a patriarch who is very widely seen, and with cause, to be fully endorsing Russia’s war of aggression and saying nothing to oppose the bloodshed and atrocities that Russians are committing.

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