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Friday, May 24, 2024

Ukraine Update: Three Killed in Russian Attacks on Orthodox Easter

Attacks by Russian forces on Orthodox Easter Sunday claimed the life of a woman, tragically buried beneath rubble, while injuring 24 others in the north-eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and its surroundings, according to regional officials. Reports from public broadcaster Suspilne highlighted power disruptions in parts of both Kharkiv and the adjacent Sumy regions following accounts of drone strikes and explosions.

Vadim Filashkin, heading the military administration in Donetsk region, reported two fatalities due to shelling in the town of Pokrovsk, with two more injured in Chasiv Yar, located west of the Russian-held town of Bakhmut.

During his Easter address, Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged Ukrainians to unite in prayer. Standing before Kyiv’s Saint Sophia Cathedral, he called for prayers for one another and the soldiers on the frontline. Zelenskiy expressed faith, stating, “And we believe: God has a chevron with the Ukrainian flag on his shoulder,” while clad in traditional Ukrainian vyshyvanka attire and khaki trousers. Notably, a majority of Ukrainians identify as Orthodox Christians, with the church itself being divided, many affiliating with the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which severed ties with Moscow after the 2022 invasion.

In contrast, in his Easter message, Vladimir Putin did not directly mention the ongoing conflict. He attended a Moscow Easter service led by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, thanking Kirill for their cooperation during challenging times, emphasizing the importance of unity for the nation’s development.

Russian forces claimed control over the ruined village of Ocheretyne in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, according to the Russian defense ministry. This announcement followed previous captures, such as those of Avdiivka in February. Ukrainian officials remained silent, though unofficial sources indicated Russian control over Ocheretyne, as reported by Reuters.

Meanwhile, in Sumy, Russian drone attacks targeted critical infrastructure, including water supply and hospitals, leaving them reliant on backup power. Ukraine’s air force reported further drone activity on Monday, with air defense systems intercepting a significant portion.

In Kyiv, officials urged residents to attend Orthodox Easter services online due to safety concerns. Serhiy Popko, head of the city administration, cautioned against potential aggressor actions even during celebratory occasions.

Jamala, Ukraine’s Eurovision 2016 winner, stressed the importance of participation in the song contest to remind Europe of Russia’s invasion despite calls for boycotts over other geopolitical issues. The event commences in Malmö, Sweden, on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Paris, where discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to include urging China to leverage its influence with Russia regarding the Ukraine conflict. Xi’s visit follows minimal engagement, including a call to Volodymyr Zelenskiy in 2023 after Macron visits Beijing. A French diplomatic source emphasized the importance of China acknowledging European concerns. Xi is slated to meet Macron and European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Monday.

In an article for Le Figaro, Xi expressed a desire to collaborate with the international community to resolve the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, asserting that China is neither a party to nor a participant in the crisis. He emphasized a commitment to working towards peace and stability in Europe, aligning with France and the broader international community.

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