The war between Ukraine and Russia has now almost completed its third month. Few of us would have believed the war would have carried on for this long when it started (24th Feb) and most of us were surprised that it began (click here).
Now however the war seems like it could go on for some time. The devastation caused by this war has been phenomenal. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the United Nations (UN) has stated that close to 3838 civilians have been killed and just over 4351 civilians have been injured (19th May 2022) during this conflict (click here).
Worse still, many reports of serious human rights violations have emerged throughout this war including forced deportation to Russia (click here), rape (click here), torture and discovery of mass graves (click here) which has drawn international condemnation. This includes allegations of sodomy of young boys of 10 and 11 years of age, some of whom died from injuries related to the sex offence (click here).
One soldier has now already been convicted by the International Criminal Court at the the Hague and will be serving a life sentence for admitting to killing a civilian (click here). The soldier admitted guilt in the murder after hearing the testimony of the wife who survived the murder (click here). he asked for forgiveness for his violent act which was enacted under the orders of a senior officer.
The UN convened a special meeting to discuss Russia’s human rights violations on 12th May, after first voting to suspend them from the Human Rights Council which led to Russia immediately withdrawing from the group (click here).
We have all seen footage and images of large cities laid waste through missile attacks and airstrikes, international media and social media have kept us up to date on this. The impact of the attack has led to over 6 million people fleeing Ukraine as reported by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) (click here), though the BBC believe this figure is closer to 14 million (click here).
The majority of these refugees have migrated to countries surrounding Ukraine in the Eastern bloc:
|20 May 2022
|19 May 2022
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|Republic of Moldova
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|12 May 2022
The UNHCR have now also caught up with our very early report that people were returning to Ukraine, and state that almost 2 million Ukrainians have returned to their homeland. UNHCR has not deducted this amount from the total number of refugees but have stated that could be pendular movement and may not be a sustainable return. This figure has therefore not been removed from their total of refugees at thus present time. We did post a video about returning Ukrainians in April, after Pastor Vitali whose church we are supporting reported on the phenomenon.
Pastor Vitali believes that the returning Ukrainians have been faced with difficult experiences when they have sought refuge. Most are women and children who will not be used to being without their spouses and will have chosen to return to their husbands as the country or city has become safer. Others have returned to stay a while in Odessa which has suffered less violent attacks then primary Russian targets.
When the war began British Asian Christian Association partnered with a church in Odessa and a Church in Moldova, to ensure that our supporters had a direct way to help those suffering through this diabolical conflict.
We wrote about the preparations for an Easter service being made by Pastor Vasilev of the church we support in Odessa (click here). This would have been a confidence-boosting celebration had it not been for the missile attack enacted by Russia on a Christian celebration they share:
Video of the impact of Easter Saturday missile attack.
The Easter Saturday (23rd April) attack on Odessa killed 8 people including a mother and baby (click here) and it sapped the moral for many Odessans. Pastor Vitali’s church had held one morning service and they had to cancel a second evening service due to a curfew. The building shown in the video is less than 2km away from their church and that is affecting the members of the church. Although most Odessans have chosen to stay during the war a sizeable amount began to leave the city after this attack. This number included many who were seeking refuge from the war in Odessa while their own cities are being annihilated.
In other parts of Ukraine soldiers and besieged citizens celebrated Easter by attending church or eating Easter treats, despite fears that they would become victims of a Russian attack as fighting raged on (click here). Soldiers even changed a patriotic address to fellow soldiers to ‘Christ is Risen’ as they clung to their faith through the onslaught.
Even more Odessans have fled their country after a missile strike on 8th May followed an air strike 9th May (click here). There were no fatalities but 3 people were injured in both attacks. Extensive damage to civillian homes and facilities left six settlements without power supply. The attack on 9th May coincides with Victory Day which commemorates Germany signing the Instruments of Surrender on 8th May 1945. The day is celebrated in both Russia and Ukraine so this attack has been a real shock to Ukrainians. Mayor of Odessa Gennady Trukhanov, notably a Kremlin sympathiser previously made a very poignant statement to France 24 news (click here), he said:
“Russians and Ukrainians together helped defeat Nazi Germany during World War II.
“No one could have imagined that in 2022 our people — Ukrainian refugees — would be hiding in Germany from Russian missiles,”
It seems the little support that the Kremlin had in Ukraine has withered away, after this deplorable war shed light on the malice of Putin.
Video of impact of attack on 9th May taken from Facebook.
A further attack took place on 10th May in which it has been reported that Russian forces were targeting food and weapon supplies (click here)
This was followed by a air strike on 16th May that damaged some civilian buildings, two adults and a child were injured (click here).
On 21st May a Russian sea mine washed up on the shore of a beach in Odessa and had to be deactivated by Navy Specialists (click here).
There is also an official report of an Odessan public toilet having been destroyed by a £4m missile, further embarrassing Russian forces (click here).
Pastor Vasilev and his family have decided to stay in Odessa and will continue to run services and provide the bags of food required by many desperate families. Please watch the video below he has shared with us:
Pastor Vasilev spoke with British Asian Christian Association, he said:
“Things aren’t changing for the better.
“With about 5 million women and children who have left Ukraine, many families have been separated for months.
“People keep leaving the country, they close businesses and their employees lose jobs and any source of income.
“It’s very difficult to find a job at the moment and very easy to lose one.
“The need is growing, increasingly people are travel here by train from nearby settlements to get some help.
“There are cities even regions without electricity and running water.”
Pastor Vasilev explained that attacks on Odessa are increasing, that a lack of resources is impacting people adversely as they try to overcome the paucity of work opportunities. He added:
“In Odessa, the situation is better but there are regular air raid signals and from time to time strategic and non-strategic objects are destroyed.
“The last two places that were bombed were a restaurant at the beach and a mall – it is demoralising.
“For several weeks Ukraine has been experiencing a lack of petrol and diesel.
“Only several gas stations have fuel and that is from time to time.
“As you can imagine there are long queues at gas stations.
“Some entrepreneurial people offer to stand in a queue for you for some reward – there are few other ways to make money.”
Pastor Vasilev has had to install an LPG fuel converter to his car to ensure he can continue his work delivering food parcels. This delayed this vital work for some time and he calls for prayers for an end to the war. He further added:
“Even now some people act as if nothing is happening.
“They break curfews and get drunk.
“Some people go sunbathing and swimming despite the signs that the beach is mined – this is very dangerous.
“But others begin to connect these events with God, start reading the Bible and think more about God.
“I believe this situation will destroy false security and sandy foundations in some people’s lives.
“Eventually they will turn to God who is the rock of our salvation and whose name is a strong tower.”
British Asian Christian Association, continues to provide a direct opportunity for our supporters to help suffering families choosing to remain in their homeland. Our help through the church that Pastor Vasilev leads, ensures essential food is given to desperate families in Odessa who are struggling because of an unjust war. Though it is believed that Odessa is relatively safe from a large scale onslaught (click here), this could change at any time. We remain committed to help families supported directly by us with transit to Moldova should the situation change. If you would like to donate to help us continue this work please (click here).
An update on our work in Moldova will be featured in our next newsletter.