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World News

'The Russians wanted to destroy the warehouse of wheat' says Ukrainian pastor in Odesa

by Donna Birrell

A pastor in Ukraine says he witnessed Russian missile strikes on the Black Sea port of Odesa just a day after a ban was lifted on the export of millions of tonnes of grain from the region.  

Father Vitaliy works with the homeless charity DePaul International offering pastoral support to people across Ukraine. He's currently in Odesa and says the area was attacked by Russian shells just hours after Russia agreed to lift the ban in a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. 

The Ukrainian military claims Russia has also attacked other areas along the south coast including Mykolaiv with air strikes, hitting private buildings and port infrastructure.

Father Vitaliy told Premier it is becoming increasingly difficult to live in the region:

"We try to live our usual life but because missiles are coming all the time and there are announcements about going down to the bomb shelters to keep you safe and it is very difficult. It is very exhausting. Just on Saturday they [Russian attacks] came to the port, the centre of Odesa and to Kharkiv last week. 

"Everybody was shocked and full of fear. We realise there is no secure place, even when you are praying. I was in Kharkiv last week and there was no day or night, we didn't even see the rockets coming to the city. But we know that with every bomb or missile somebody is dead. 

"In the beginning there was a lot of enthusiasm, we felt it [the war] would finish soon. It has not finished soon as we have seen with the rockets in Odesa. This was the biggest shooting of the war.

"They shot at this city where we have wheat and just as an agreement was signed in Istanbul so that we can start to transport and export our wheat. So they bombed this warehouse of wheat, they wanted to destroy it."

Five months on from the Russian invasion, Father Vitaliy is urging people not to forget the plight of people in Ukraine and to continue praying for them :

"As Christians, we know it's very deep in our DNA like I was hungry you gave me food. I was naked and you gave me clothes. I was in need you came to me. It's like the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught us that. Try to be like the Good Samaritan."

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