The funeral of Oleksandr Zinivy was disrupted when Russian priest, Mykhailo Vasylyuk of the Moscow Patriarchate, ran up to Ukrainian priest, Anatoliy Dudko, and hit him with a cross. Reverend Dudko, of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), had previously blamed Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine to protect believers of the Russian Orthodox Church. Shocking footage caught the moment Reverend Vasylyuk tried to rip the cross from the neck of his Ukrainian counterpart before striking him with a cross.
Military personnel were forced to intervene in the fight and drag Vasylyuk away.
Local activist Serhiy Timkov shared the moment on Facebook revealing that Dudko suffered minor injuries.
He wrote: “In my opinion, [the incident] crosses all possible and impossible limits of arrogance.
“Based on the above, I further ask law enforcement authorities to ensure order at any gatherings where there is a conflict.”
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It comes as Ukraine stepped up its drive to retake its Russian-controlled south by trying to bomb and isolate Russian troops in hard-to-resupply areas, but it said on Thursday it saw evidence that Moscow was redeploying its forces to defend the territory.
In messages to mark the annual Day of Ukrainian Statehood, President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated Ukrainians and sounded defiant.
“We will not give up. We will not be intimidated. Ukraine is an independent, free, indivisible state. And it will always be so,” he wrote on Telegram.
After Russia and Ukraine struck a deal last week to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said he was hopeful the first shipment of grain from a Ukrainian Black Sea port could take place as early as Friday.
British military intelligence, which helps Ukraine, said it was likely that Ukrainian forces had also established a bridgehead south of a river which runs along the region’s northern border. “Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gathering momentum,” it said in a statement.
Ukraine says it has retaken some small settlements on the region’s northern edge in recent weeks as it tries to push Russian forces back, a potential prelude to what Kyiv has billed as a major counter-offensive to retake the south.
Russia said on Thursday it was unfazed, with the defence ministry saying its planes had attacked a Ukrainian infantry brigade in the far north of Kherson region and killed more than 130 of its soldiers in the last 24 hours.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration running the Kherson region, has also dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the battlefield situation.