Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian artillery struck an early 17th-century Ukrainian Orthodox monastery in war-torn eastern Ukraine on Saturday, with the main church going up in flames.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied involvement, accusing Ukrainian troops of setting fire to the All Saints Monastery before withdrawing.
The Svyatohirsk Lavra monastery complex belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and is located near Russian positions in eastern Donetsk, one of the two regions targeted by the Kremlin.
Footage posted by Zelenskiy on his official Telegram channel showed flames ripping through the wooden walls of an onion-domed church. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the images.
“Russian artillery hit the Svyatohirsk Lavra in the Donetsk region again today. The Monastery of All Saints was destroyed. It was consecrated in 1912. It was first destroyed during the Soviet era. Later it was rebuilt to be burned by the Russian army,” said the Ukrainian leader. wrote.
Zelenskiy called for Russia’s expulsion from the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO and said there were no military targets at the site.
“Every church burned down by Russia in Ukraine, every school blown up, every monument destroyed proves that Russia has no place in UNESCO.”
Two monks and a nun were killed on the spot in shelling on June 1.
Russia denies targeting civilians. It describes its action in Ukraine as a special military operation.
The monastic settlement of Svyatohirsk Lavra dates back to 1627. The All Saints Monastery was built of wood in 2009 to replace the monastery that was destroyed in 1947.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which remained loyal to Moscow after a 2019 schism, said last month it would break with Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
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