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Ukrainian forces accused of massacring priests in Donetsk region

UKRAINIAN forces were accused yesterday of massacring priests and monks in the eastern Donetsk region as part of a purge of religious figures with alleged pro-Russian sympathies. 

Vladimir Bandura, the leader of the town of Svyatogorsk in the mountainous eastern region of Ukraine, claimed that killings and looting by far-right forces were being covered up and going unreported. 

“I want to say that there is verified information that the nazis are murdering priests, monks and they are sweeping these facts under the rug,” he said. 

Mr Bandura was speaking in a video message issued by Russia’s Defence Ministry yesterday when he urged Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to sit down for peace talks. 

“Everyone has turned into the West’s doormat in order to get money and prolong the war. Nobody spares the people,” he said, describing the war as “ruthless and senseless.”

In March, the Morning Star reported on the storming of an Ukrainian Orthodox church in the central town of Smila by the so-called territorial defence, an armed group set up by Kiev prior to the Russian invasion.

After the holy site was ransacked by the Ukrainian nationalists, it was reported that the priest Vasily Miroshnichenko had been abducted. 

Also in March, a draft Bill was proposed in parliament to ban the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate and to nationalise all its assets. 

In April, the Vatican’s embassy in Ukraine voiced indirect opposition to the move, which has not been voted on.  

Priests within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate had gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition to oust Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill from his position of leadership over his support for Russia’s invasion.

The religious leader has previously described Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a miracle from God,” while late Cuban leader Fidel Castro praised the patriarch as an ally in the global struggle against imperialism. 

Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Peace became the latest work of literature to be erased from Ukraine’s education system yesterday as part of sweeping anti-Russian measures. 

Deputy Education Minister Andrey Vitrenko said that everything that glorifies the Russian military “will disappear from the foreign literature curriculum.”

The book will be replaced by more patriotic material, he said, adding that the teaching of national and world history will also undergo changes.

In April, a Bill was passed banning street names associated with Russian history and the Soviet Union, while a number of statues have already been torn down.

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