Displaying items by tag: Ukraine
There have been Ukrainian anti-corruption reforms before, but stakes are higher now that Kyiv is receiving billions of dollars of financial aid from Western allies. Officials are warned through official and unofficial channels: focus on the war, help victims, reduce bureaucracy and stop doing dubious business. Some have not listened. Several senior officials have resigned as Zelensky begins a shake-up of government personnel. A top adviser, four deputy ministers and five regional governors left their posts on 24th January in the broad anti-corruption drive. There are bribery claims worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and officials living lavishly. Zelensky is responding to ‘key public demands’ that justice must apply to everyone and state officials cannot leave Ukraine unless on authorised business. Ukraine is historically corrupt. In 2021 Ukraine ranked 122 out of 180 corrupt countries.
A Russian missile strike hit an apartment building in Dnipro housing 1,700 people. President Zelenskyy reported 75 survivors were wounded, at least 40 people died. Rescue efforts continue, but Mayor Borys Filatov said, ‘there is minimal chance of finding others alive. The death toll made it the deadliest attack in one place since September. The attack ends a two-week lull in airstrikes against Ukraine's power infrastructure and urban centres. A Dnipro survivor said, ‘There are no military facilities here, no air defence, no military bases. It just hit civilians, innocent people.’ Russia’s Defence Ministry said, ‘All designated targets on Ukraine’s military command and control system were hit’ see Meanwhile a former commander with the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group has deserted and claiming asylum after witnessing war crimes in Ukraine - including deserters being executed and killing Russians who don't want to kill Ukrainians.
Britain is considering becoming the first country to send Western tanks to Ukraine in what would be a major stepping up of international support. Last week foreign secretary James Cleverly said Britain was open to sending Ukraine Challenger II battle tanks and ‘will continue to evolve our support as Kyiv readies the next phase of their self-defence’. The remarks were a shift in the Government’s position, with No 10 previously being in step with other Nato allies in being reluctant to supply heavy armoured vehicles. Any pledge by the UK could be made at the next meeting of the US-led Ramstein Contact Group of international supporters of Ukraine, due next week. Defence sources said the UK could supply Volodymyr Zelensky with the British Army’s main battle tank to encourage other Western allies to follow suit and stop the war.
Humanitarian workers Andrew Bagshaw and Christopher Parry were last seen on 6 January heading to Soledar, where fighting is intense. The Foreign Office is supporting their families. Christopher travelled to Ukraine to help people to evacuate Bakhmut, in the eastern Donbas region. He recently described having a ‘drive to help, as the people here are so lovely’. He spoke of continuous bombardment as he worked near the front line. Andrew wrote in his online crowdfunding page for vehicle repairs, fuel and equipment to help evacuate civilians. He also has been helping children and families to flee the front line, delivering food and medicines and assisting elderly people move away from the battlefront. On 13 January the Russian Wagner group said it had found the body of one of the two missing men in eastern Ukraine. The Foreign Office has not confirmed the claim and is in touch with Ukrainian authorities. See
Russia has not taken a key position for months, despite intense efforts to achieve military gains. Wagner claims to have Russian mercenaries in control of a Soledar salt mine. But the regular Russian armed forces and Moscow defence ministry say the battle is still going on, hinting of a rift in pro-Russian forces. Ukraine also says there is still fighting there. Soledar’s deep salt mines could be used to position troops and equipment while being protected from Ukrainian missiles, and the tunnel network could be used to penetrate Ukrainian-controlled territory. The salt and gypsum mines provide sources of revenue for whoever works them. Wagner mercenaries have previously taken control of valuable African mining resources. Soledar’s battle is just one in a campaign that is not going well for Putin. If Russia seize Soledar the course of the war could change and Putin gain a propaganda win to present to his critics.
The British barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice, who led the prosecution of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, said Vladimir Putin should go on trial in Ukraine this year for war crimes committed there. He expressed his surprise that prosecutors and politicians were not ‘spelling this out much more freely and openly’. He described Moscow's actions during the invasion as ‘crimes against humanity’ as civilian targets were being attacked. Crimes against humanity are considered the most serious offences under the so-called ‘rules’ of war. These laws ban attacks on civilians - or infrastructure vital to their survival - and are set out in international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions. Russia's repeat attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid over the winter are described as war crimes because of the harm done to civilians. Russia claims to be hitting only military targets. Kyiv’s prosecutor-general has reported 62,000+ war crimes, including over 450 child deaths.
Dressed in the colours of Ukraine, Vladyslav Bondar, a ballet dancer, moves delicately across the stage of Rotterdam's mediaeval St Lawrence Church. He is performing with the United Ukrainian Ballet at a Salvation Army Christmas party - a setting far removed from the war in his homeland. ‘I wanted to fight for Ukraine.’ Vladyslav said after the performance, knowing it could have meant the end of his career as a professional dancer. But instead of taking up arms, he joined over 70 other Ukrainians who make up the United Ukrainian Ballet - a dance company formed directly in response to the outbreak of war. Fellow dancer Oleksii Kniazkov said, ‘Every Ukrainian has his own battlefield. And the stage is ours.’ Their dance is a dance of defiance.
The Archbishop of Canterbury visited Bucha and saw evidence of atrocities and civilian killings by Russian troops, as millions of people remain without power or heating after attacks on Ukraine's power grid. The most senior cleric in the Church of England was highlighting the need for support for Ukraine ahead of a tough winter. ‘I am clear that Putin chose to start the war and release the evil that comes from that’, he said. It is proper to support a ‘victim nation’ that is ‘being overrun by aggression’. Stating that the international community had a ‘duty of care’ to protect weaker nations, he said that the consequences of letting Ukraine down would be ‘infinitely worse’ than carrying on the support for Kyiv. ‘It would be more expensive and politically catastrophic because it would prove that Putin was right when he thought the West would not stand together for long enough for this to end justly and fairly.’
In a stunning announcement, President Zelenskiy said he intends to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from Ukraine. His decision came on the heels of an investigation into the church's ties with ‘the Patriarchate in Russia.’ Ukraine will also ban the activities of any religious organisation affiliated with ‘centres of influence’ within Russia. `We will ensure for our state the fullness of independence - in particular, spiritual independence. We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul’, Zelensky said. Orthodox Christians are the largest demographic in Ukraine. There have been some internal disagreements about who they support in the war between Ukraine and Russia, and Zelensky fears Russia may be using the church to plant agents in the church to undermine Ukraine’s war effort. The majority of Orthodox leaders have announced their support for Ukraine, and Ukraine’s Orthodox Church announced its full independence from Moscow’s Patriarchate. It does not support Russia’s invasion.
In light of the Russian attack on Ukraine, many politicians have spoken of a turning point in history. ‘Rarely does evil show its face so openly,’ said one daily newspaper. Our society has largely ceased to reckon with the reality of evil, so how do we confront it? Do we allow ourselves to be infected with negative thoughts and feelings, even hatred? A Ukrainian brother’s prayer can guide us to real prayer. He prayed that, despite the brutal war, hearts would not harden but remain soft. May the Holy Spirit transform all stony hearts. The Conference on the Future of Europe has presented its final report, containing 49 proposals about Europe’s future. In the entire text of 336 pages the words ‘religion’, ‘faith’, and ‘church’ are not mentioned. Faith having a significance in the future of Europe is no longer considered.