A Ukrainian bishop predicts a new exodus of refugees: “How can they stay?

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WARSAW, Poland – A Ukrainian bishop has warned of a humanitarian disaster caused by Russian attacks on his country’s electricity and water supply and predicted a “huge new wave of refugees” desperate to survive the winter.

“While frontline fighting continues, we now face constant attacks from Russian S-300 missiles and Iranian suicide drones – it’s worse at night, when people fall asleep not knowing if their building will be touched,” Auxiliary Bishop Jan Sobilo said. from Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia.

“Many of those who never considered leaving before are now in western Ukraine or have left the country, and I think another huge wave of refugees will soon converge on Poland and other country. If there is no water, gas or electricity where they live, how can they stay there?

The Zaporizhzhia-based bishop spoke as Russian strikes continued against civilian targets in Kyiv and other cities, destroying infrastructure and energy supplies as winter approaches.

In an October 21 Catholic Press Service interview, he said that parts of his eastern city were already experiencing power and water cuts, sometimes for hours, while many residents left the city at night for security reasons, to sleep in facilities of Fortune.

“Multi-storey buildings were destroyed, people were shattered in their homes as they slept,” Sobilo said. CNS.

“All the civil and social infrastructure is being taken down, including the energy installations supplying electricity to the smallest sockets. Some towns closer to the front line have had no gas or electricity for six months.

Ukrainian government sources said hundreds of missile and drone attacks were recorded in mid-October against dozens of towns, including in the Dnipro and Donetsk regions, where Ukrainian forces retook swathes of of territory during a two-month counter-offensive.

Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed on October 20 that a third of Ukraine’s power plants have now been destroyed, leaving more than a thousand urban areas without electricity.

Sobilo said his curia in Zaporizhzhia receives a weekly supply truck from the Catholic charity De Paul International, as well as help from the Rome-based Missionaries of the Holy Family. These supplies were passed on to people in need in other cities, including those in Russian-occupied areas.

However, he added that half of Zaporizhzhia’s population of 750,000 had now fled, and he said parish life was dwindling as fewer Catholics attended mass.

The region’s majority Eastern Rite Catholics and communities of Orthodox and Protestants also faced a drop in turnout, Sobilo said, as fewer people took to the streets, fearing rockets and bombs. .

“Many have left in search of a safer place to spend the winter, amid now intermittent transport and fears that air raid sirens will sound and they will come under fire,” said the bishop.

“People are tired and fearful, knowing that the remaining power supplies could be suddenly cut off, leaving them struggling to survive the cold and hunger. Those who leave now are not looking to improve their lives, just to find a way to survive.

In an October 19 Italian television interview, Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia said his own city, Kharkiv, 20 miles from the Russian border, now resembled Sarajevo during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. . He called for more humanitarian aid as temperatures were expected to drop to minus 30.

Vatican Nuncio Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas told Rome-based SIR on October 17 that Shahed-136 explosive drones supplied by Iran to Russia had hit civilian sites near his office in Kyiv. , but said he thought Ukrainians “rather die than live underground”. a regime that destroys and is based on violence, injustice and lies.

Sobilo said renewed Russian attacks on Kyiv had intensified local insecurity, stressing that “the whole of Ukraine” was now under threat.

He added that President Vladimir Putin’s September 30 annexation of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia – a move condemned on October 12 in a UN General Assembly resolution – had been ignored. by local residents, who had also “not heeded” his Oct. 19 martial law follow-up statement.

“These occupied areas are already suffering from war, with terror and death stalking civilians in Bucha, Izium and elsewhere – so how would it make sense to announce a state of war?” said the bishop.

“The so-called annexation is really just an occupation – and people don’t want it, even though they currently have no other option. Most expect these territories to be liberated and eventually returned to Ukraine.

In an October 20 message, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, said he had recently visited Mykolaiv, where “devastating shelling and shelling” had caused a lack of drinking water. He said Russian forces were using the deported Ukrainians “as a human shield” as they retreated from the southern port of Kherson.

The Archbishop said Russian forces attacked power stations near several towns and appeared poised to cause flooding by blowing up dams on the Dnieper.

sobilo said CNS Ukrainian Catholics were grateful for the help already provided by the West, but would depend entirely on additional support, including food, medicine and clothing, to survive the winter and “keep hope for the future”.

“As long as we are alive and there are still people here, our priests and nuns will be here with them, enduring the same hardships,” the Bishop said. CNS.

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