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Pope’s envoy meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv amid destruction of critical dam that flooded south

LVIV, Ukraine (OSV News) — Pope Francis’ peace envoy to Ukraine, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, ended his two-day visit to Ukraine on June 6. factory along front lines in southern Ukraine that Zelensky blamed on “Russian terrorists”. The Russian side accused Ukrainian forces of blowing up the dam. Ukraine accused the Russians of committing what it called “ecocide”.

Thousands of people are threatened by flood waters from the Kakhovka dam, just 20 miles from the city of Kherson in southeastern Ukraine, with Red Cross volunteers already prepared for the trains to evacuation transporting people whose cities are or will soon be under water.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, president of the Italian episcopal conference and papal envoy to Ukraine, second right, speaks during a meeting in Kyiv with Ukrainian parliamentary commissioner for human rights Dmytro Lubinets , June 5. Earlier in the day, Cardinal Zuppi visited Kiev’s suburb of Bucha, where hundreds of Ukrainian civilians died under Russian occupation in the spring of 2022. (OSV News/courtesy Ombudsman of Ukraine)

“My heart is broken. How can they hate life so much,” Olia Hercules, a Ukrainian book author from Kakhovka, said in a video on Twitter, blaming Russia for damaging the ecosystem of society in the first place. region by building the dam in 1956 on Stalin’s orders, and now “damaging it again” without warning by “blowing it up”, the woman said.

The town of Nova Kakhovka, which is closest to the dam, was already completely flooded in the morning EST on June 6. The damaged dam on the Dnipro River could cause the river itself to overflow, flooding coastal towns. This could trigger an unprecedented ecological disaster in the region.

The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk, called on the world community to condemn Russia’s actions in Kakhovka and allegedly blowing up the plant.

“Russia continues its genocidal aggression against Ukraine. The destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station is another war crime, a terrible environmental and man-made disaster and a sin against God the Creator, who called on man to favor, not destroy, the world we ‘he created,” Bishop Shevchuk said in a Facebook post. job.

“The explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam has put thousands of people in mortal danger, which is only growing. The rapid drop in the water level in the Kakhovka reservoir as a result of the explosion is a threat to the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” he added.
Bishop Shevchuk called for prayer for those in danger and for wisdom and courage for the emergency services evacuating civilians.

He called on the international community “to condemn these terrorist actions of the Russian aggressor and to respond appropriately”.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Zuppi was visiting Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and met with Zelenskyy on June 6. The Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire reported that the meeting was cordial and that the papal envoy discussed with the president “key points to move forward in the direction of stable and concrete dialogue.

Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post that he “discussed the situation in Ukraine and humanitarian cooperation within the framework of the Ukrainian peace formula” with Cardinal Zuppi and added that “only united efforts, the Diplomatic isolation and pressure on Russia can influence the aggressor and bring a just peace to Ukrainian land.

Pope's envoy meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv amid destruction of critical dam that flooded south
The broken Nova Kakhovka dam is shown in a screen grab from a video in the Kherson region, Ukraine, June 6, 2023. (OSV News/Reuters screenshot) Editors: Best quality available.

“I call on the Holy See to contribute to the implementation of the Ukrainian peace plan. Ukraine welcomes the readiness of other states and partners to find ways to peace, but since the war is on our territory, the algorithm for achieving peace can only be Ukrainian,” Zelenskyy wrote. .

According to the Vatican, the main purpose of the visit is to listen “in depth” to the Ukrainian authorities on possible ways to achieve a “just peace and to support gestures of humanity that will help to ease tensions”, reads- on in a Holy See of June 5th. communicated.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference. The Vatican announced on May 20 that the pope had asked the cardinal to lead a mission to end the war, which is now entering its 16th month.

On June 5, Cardinal Zuppi visited the kyiv suburb of Bucha, the press service of the Kyiv regional military administration said in a message on Telegram. Kyiv Region Governor Ruslan Kravchenko and local officials accompanied the Cardinal on his trip to the region.

Kravchenko noted that this was Pope Francis’ peace envoy’s first visit to Ukraine, during which he saw firsthand the “extremely high price” Ukrainians pay for freedom. and world peace.

Representatives of the delegation visited the Church of St. Andrew the First Called in Bucha. This is the place where 119 civilians were buried during the occupation.

After 33 days of occupation, Russian forces withdrew from Bucha in the first days of April 2022, leaving behind a scene of horror, with bodies lying on the ground, people shot with their hands tied to back of the body, some found dumped in the sewers.

“Such stories are a pain for all civilized people. The papal envoy spoke of the mass murders of civilians by the Nazis near the Italian city of Bologna. Ukrainians, like no one else, want such crimes against humanity never to happen again,” Kravchenko said on June 5.

Cardinal Zuppi also met in kyiv with the Ukrainian parliamentary commissioner for human rights, Dmytro Lubinets. Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, papal nuncio to Ukraine, accompanied Cardinal Zuppi during the meeting.

The papal envoy emphasized that war is a step backwards that destroys everything and makes children suffer.

“It is unacceptable that the violence of this war has affected children. Pope Francis, speaking of Ukraine, used a very beautiful expression: ‘Your tears are my tears, your pain is my pain,’” Cardinal Zuppi said while meeting with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv on June 5. “And today I say that your children are our children — I can talk about that because a lot of children have come to Italy. It was very nice to see the hospitality with which the Italians welcomed the Ukrainian children,” the cardinal said.

The cardinal noted that Italian and Ukrainian children in schools quickly found a common language and became friends.

Lubinets said Ukraine was able to return 371 children among those who were illegally deported to Russia during the war.

“The return of each child is like a small special operation. When you know that the Russian Federation will never support and help you, we must do everything for the return of Ukrainian children”, underlined the Ukrainian Commissioner for Human Rights. “So far, we have managed to bring back 371 children. Perhaps with your participation,” he told the cardinal, “we can drastically change that number.”

He stressed that Ukraine is grateful to all who are ready to help in this matter. The two sides also discussed the exchange of prisoners of war.

“Of course the church will do everything possible to protect the lives of children,” Zuppi said.

“Ukraine must liberate all of its territory because it is the only mechanism for protecting children,” Lubinets wrote on his Facebook post recounting Cardinal Zuppi’s visit to his office.

The damage to the Kakhovka dam comes amid news that Ukrainian forces may have launched a long-awaited counter-offensive in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine.

Read more Crisis in Ukraine

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