Russian forces have reportedly shelled an Orthodox church in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region, killing two monks and a nun, according to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The Sviatohirsk Lavra monastery in the north of the region was housing hundreds of civilians, according to Ukrainian Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko.
There were reportedly 300 civilians among the monks and nuns, including an estimated 60 children, he tweeted with a photo:
"Skete of All Saints of the Holy Dormition Svyatogorsk Lavra is now on fire caused by russia's hostilities. There were about 300 refugees, about 60 children. Racists continue to prove their inability to be part of civilized world. And 133 🇺🇦 religious buildings already suffered from russia."
The largest wooden church in Ukraine was constructed in 1912, and Zelenskyy called on Russia to be expelled from the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO.
"Every Orthodox church burned by Russia in Ukraine, every blown up school, and every destroyed monument prove that there is no room for Russia in the UNESCO," Zelenskyy wrote Telegram.
"It [skete] was blessed in 1912. First it was destroyed during the Soviet rule. Then it was rebuilt. Today it was burned by the Russian army."
Zelenskyy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak speaking to Newsmax in an exclusive sitdown interview in the capital city of Kyiv this week said Ukraine is going to demand financial reparations from Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" in any peace talks amid the war – which began with a 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russian forces.
"It's stop the war, it's withdrawal of Russian troops from our territory, and after it, of course, we would like to discuss, 'You have to pay, to compensate,'" Yermak told Rob Schmitt, noting there is no repaying for the deaths, especially the children killed, but Russia will have "to pay to reconstruct our country."
Tkachenko told the media Ukraine is keeping record of the damages done by Russian forces.
"We keep records of cultural monuments that were damaged or destroyed during the war," Tkachenko said.
"Similarly, we are now calculating how we can determine actual financial losses from the destruction of our monuments," he continued, adding "almost half of these 370 cultural monuments are churches of various denominations. In fact, when the Russians destroy Ukrainian heritage, they don't care whether these are their [spiritual sites] or not, they just destroy them."
Zelenskyy said in a video message he expected "very predictable" accusations from Russia blaming Ukraine, despite monks and civilians seeing the Russian artillery hitting the monastery.
"I believe that this lie of the propagandists, and this shelling, and this support by Orthodox hierarchs in Russia for aggression against Ukraine – all this should prompt the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to more decisive conclusions and a clear condemnation of those who are perpetrating the aggression," Zelenskyy said, according to an English translation.
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