Kiev Plans to Shell Churches on Orthodox Easter to Accuse Russian Forces of War Crimes - Russian MoD
09:03 GMT 18.04.2022 (Updated: 10:10 GMT 18.04.2022)
Orthodox Christians will celebrate Easter on Sunday 24 April this year. Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant Christian denomination in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and southeastern Europe, as well as some parts of the Middle East.
Russia's Defence Ministry has information that Ukrainian authorities are planning to carry out a "terrible" provocation on Orthodox Easter, and is appealing to Western governments, the United Nations and the Organisation for Security Co-operation in Europe to prevent it from taking place, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Defence Control Centre, has announced.
"We are warning countries of the 'Civilised West' led by the United States ahead of time that the Russian Federation has an operational base of evidence about terrible crimes planned by the Kiev regime," Mizintsev said in a briefing in Moscow on Monday.
Kiev, according to the officer, plans to shell churches using mortars in a number of regions of Ukraine, including Zaporozhye, Nikolaev, Odessa, Sumy and Kharkov on Easter night, and to subsequently blame Russia for the massacre of civilians. A number of Western countries are said to be involved in the planning of the provocation, which is to be carried out by over 70 mobile groups formed among ultra-nationalist battalions in mortar-equipped vans and off-road vehicles.
"Kiev plans to gather a large number of reporters from Western news agencies to document these alleged 'Russian atrocities' and to immediately and cynically spin these fakes," he said.
"We call on the United Nations, the OSCE, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organisations to immediately influence the Kiev regime to prevent this inhuman provocation, which disregards all norms of morality and international humanitarian law," Mizintsev said.
The National Defence Control Centre chief noted that the MoD's warning has been communicated to all of the above-mentioned international bodies using available means.
The Russian military and captured neo-Nazi militants have already provided evidence on suspected war crimes by Kiev-aligned forces against religious sites in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a captured Azov Regiment fighter revealed that Ukrainian forces deliberately fired on
the Svyatogorsk Monastery in Donetsk -a major local architectural landmark and Orthodox holy site, in March.
"It was all done on purpose, to make it look like it was shelled by Russian forces. In reality it was the Ukrainian army doing the shooting, to further inflame the conflict with Russia," the militant said.
The monastery was shelled on the night of 12 March, damaging the shrine, a bridge connecting the complex to the city of Svyatogorsk, knocking down trees and leaving shrapnel in the monastery's walls. Two civilians were killed.
The captured militant further revealed that Ukrainian forces have been using the tactic of disguising themselves as civilians and travelling in bank vans and ambulances with mortars hidden inside.
Last month, the Russian MoD accused
Ukrainian radicals from the Aidar battalion of keeping 300 civilians and monks hostage in the settlement of Nikolskoe, Donetsk. Russian and Donbass militia forces were said to have killed some of the fighters, forcing the rest to disperse.
Over 70 percent of Ukrainians are Orthodox Christians. About 8 percent of the population consists of Catholics and Protestants, with Islam and Judaism accounting for a combined one percent, and about 20 percent describing themselves as unaffiliated Christians, or non-religious. In 2018, in a political move aimed at splitting Ukrainian Orthodoxy, the government of Petro Poroshenko announced the creation of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.