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A centuries-old monastery in Ukraine has been burned beyond repair after shelling by Russian artillery, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
All Saints Monastery of the Svyatogorsk Lavra was set ablaze Saturday after a series of concentrated bombardments from Russian invading forces.
The monastery is a religious institute under the protection of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has continued to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The blaze was reported by Ukrainian journalist Agath Gorski, who posted footage of the disaster to Twitter.
“The wooden All Saints Monastery of the Svyatogorsk Lavra in Donetsk region is on fire due to Russian shelling!” Gorski said. “The Lavra dates back to the 1500s. Second time Russia shells it. This is yet another act of Russian barbarism. For them, nothing is sacred.”
Zelenskyy posted video of the burning holy site on social media Saturday.
The monastery, located in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, is made mostly of lumber and has stood since the 16th century.
The inferno is likely to strain ecumenical relations between Ukraine and Russia even further. The ongoing invasion has spurred Orthodox bishops to separate from the patriarchate of Moscow and begin operating autocephalous episcopal sees.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) has formally separated itself from Moscow Patriarch Kirill, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in what one analyst calls a “huge blow to Putin.”
More than 100 churches in Ukraine had rejected the UOC in favor of the Kyiv-based Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which had split from Moscow in 2019.
Yet the UOC itself declared “full independence” from Moscow Friday.
“We fully understand how the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is suffering today,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church said in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in central Moscow. He warned that “spirits of malice” wanted to divide the Orthodox people of Russia and Ukraine but declared that they would not succeed.