As U.S. intelligence officials say Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely cause more deaths and destruction in Ukraine over his anger and frustration at his military’s failures, the General Secretary of the Russian Evangelical Alliance released a statement saying he mourns the invasion and did “everything I could do to prevent war.”
“I mourn what my country has done in its recent military invasion of another sovereign country, Ukraine,” REA General Secretary Vitaly Vlasenko said in a statement addressed to his “dear brothers and sisters around the world.”
“Peaceful feelings are being destroyed amidst the bombing and shelling, and a stream of increased attention has rushed across Europe in the form of refugees: women, the elderly, and children,” he added.
The Associated Press said Monday it learned about the death of a pregnant woman and her baby after Russia bombed a maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol where she was meant to give birth. “Images of the woman being rushed to an ambulance on a stretcher had circled the world, epitomizing the horror of an attack on humanity’s most innocent,” it said.
As doctors were doing all they could to keep her alive as her pelvis crushed and hip detached, she realized she was losing her baby and cried out to the medics, “Kill me now!” The medics delivered the baby via cesarean section but there were “no signs of life,” the surgeon was quoted as saying.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Saturday it had recorded 1,663 civilian casualties, including 596 killed and 1,067 injured, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.
Those dead include 124 men, 85 women, six girls and 10 boys, as well as 27 children and 344 adults whose sex is yet unknown … “although the actual figure could be much higher,” the OHCHR said.
More than 2.8 million people have fled Ukraine because of the Russian invasion, the U.N. has said, according to the BBC.
The head of REA added: “Two peoples closely related to each other, many of whom are deeply devoted to the Christian (primarily Orthodox) faith, are now in a fierce battle — one side pursuing the goal of demilitarizing Ukraine, the other seeking to save their country from occupation.”
Russians and Ukrainians have close family relations, he said. “A Russian may have daughters and grandchildren living in Kyiv; a Ukrainian may have children living and working in Moscow.”
Vlasenko continued: “Today, pain, fear, and deep sorrow for their loved ones and for the future of their own lives and countries, pierce the hearts of many people like lightning, because since the Second World War, no one knows what the limits of war and its consequences may be.”
“All these events cause me deep sorrow, bitterness and regret for decisions taken by the leadership of my country, and a great compassion for those suffering as a result of this decision,” he concluded, listing his efforts, including writing an open letter to Putin the day before the invasion, while also fasting and praying for peace and harmony between Russia and Ukraine, among other things.
On Monday, the AP quoted CIA Director William Burn as saying that Putin might escalate the conflict to try to break Ukraine’s resistance. “I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now,” he said. “He’s likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.”
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was ready to hold peace talks with Russia mediated by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem.
Hours later, the Holy Dormition Svyatogorsk Lavra, an Orthodox Christian monastery in the Donetsk region that has sheltered more than 500 evacuees, including 200 children, was rocked when a bomb exploded 54 yards away from the entrance, the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security reported in posts on Facebook and Telegram.
Zelensky’s announcement came after Putin showed no willingness to accept a ceasefire when French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to him.
About 100 Christian leaders in the United States, more than 280 priests and deacons of the Russian Orthodox Church and over 400 ministers of Evangelical churches in Russia have called for reconciliation and an immediate end to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
“We mourn the ordeal to which our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected,” the Russian Orthodox clerics wrote in their open letter. “The Last Judgment awaits every person.”
The clerics added, “No earthly authority, no doctors, no guards will protect from this judgment. Concerned about the salvation of every person who considers himself a child of the Russian Orthodox Church, we do not want him to appear at this judgment, bearing the heavy burden of mother’s curses.”