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Ukrainian religious leadership asks world to recognize Russia as terrorist state, condemn actions against Ukraine

A man stands next to a museum in Lviv, Ukraine, Jan. 1, 2024, that was destroyed by a Russian drone strike. The museum was dedicated to Roman Shukhevych, leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. (OSV News photo/Roman Baluk, Reuters)

LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which represents the various Christian, Jewish and Muslim bodies of Ukraine, called the world to recognize Russia as a terrorist state and provide Ukraine with the means necessary to protect life.

For the second time in a row, Ukraine welcomed a new year amid war with a series of Russian attacks on major cities, including the capital, Kyiv, and the western city of Lviv.

In a statement Dec. 29, the Council of Churches urged the world “to condemn the actions of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, recognize Russia as a terrorist state, and provide Ukraine with the necessary means to protect life, including additional air defense equipment, aircrafts, and all that is necessary for the defense and restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Russia hit Ukraine with a new wave of airstrikes just ahead of New Year’s in what is seen as some of the heaviest aerial bombardment since Russia’s war began Feb. 24, 2022.

Russia launched a record 90 Shahed-type drones over Ukraine, most of which Ukraine said it had intercepted, as President Vladimir Putin vowed to further intensify attacks after a Ukrainian strike on the south Russian city of Belgorod Dec. 30, in which 25 people, including five children, were killed, according to Russian officials.

In an 18-hour series of Russian airstrikes that began Dec. 29, 49 people were killed in Ukraine as Russia targeted major cities such as Kyiv, the capital, Kharkiv and Odesa, where a 15-year-old boy was killed and seven people wounded by falling debris from one of the downed aircraft in the Black Sea port city, according to the head of the region’s military administration, Oleh Kiper, as reported by The Guardian.

In western Lviv, home to many people who fled occupied eastern Ukraine cities, Russian attacks severely damaged a museum Jan. 1.

In retaliation for the Belgorod attack Dec. 30, Russia carried out a wave of attacks on the Ukrainian eastern city of Kharkiv, hitting a hotel in the city center and residential areas.

In an appeal released after second wartime Christmas without a cease-fire, the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations called on the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches and other international interfaith organizations “to consider the issue of the moral and other forms of responsibility of the Russian Orthodox Church, which through all conceivable means supports the Russian aggression against Ukraine, incites ethnic and interfaith hatred, and, through preaching of the ideology of the ‘Russian world,’ incites genocide of the Ukrainian people.”

The organization also expressed condolences to Ukrainian families “who have suffered and are suffering as a result of Russia’s terrorist actions.”

In a recent wave of attacks, the United Nations confirmed that Russia targeted a maternity hospital, educational institutions, a shopping center, residential buildings, private houses, churches, and commercial and warehouse premises.

U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Mohamed Khaled Khiari said in his remarks to the emergency Security Council meeting on Ukraine Dec. 29 that “as we look to the New Year in the hope of avoiding further escalation, we recall the Secretary-General’s appeal to all concerned to do their part to help lay the foundations for sustainable peace in Ukraine.”

In the debate that followed, several Security Council members reflected on the heavy toll this war has exacted on Ukrainian civilians since it began almost two years ago. Many also condemned attacks on civilian populations and infrastructure, calling for their immediate cessation. They also expressed concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country — particularly amid the onset of winter’s cold, the U.N. news release from Dec. 29 said.

Lilia Kovalyk-Vasiuta writes for OSV News from Lviv, Ukraine.