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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
KYIV, UKRAINE (BosNewsLife)– Metropolitan Volodymyr, who led Ukraine’s Moscow-linked Orthodox Church for more than two, often turbulent, decades has died, leaving behind members struggling to overcome hardship in the war-torn east. News of his passing prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to express his condolences to the church.
It was not immediately clear what impact Volodymyr’s death would have on the situation in eastern Ukraine, where Pro-Russian separatists have regrouped in the city of Donetsk, vowing to renew their fight against the Ukrainian government.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church said in a statement that Metropolitan Volodymyr had in its words “gone to the Lord”. The leader of Ukraine’s largest church under the Moscow Patriarchate was 78.
He passed away in a Kyiv clinic after reportedly suffering internal bleeding, following a long battle with cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
His death comes at a difficult time for Ukraine. He was seen as a moral voice in a nation trying to overcome a conflict that killed hundreds of lives in the east.
Putin praised the late church leader as someone who was concerned about the spiritual health of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples amid turmoil.
Yet Putin himself has been criticized by pro-Russian separatists for not doing enough to help them.
On Sunday, armed separatists vowed to continue their battle for independence, after they were driven out of a key stronghold in the city of Slovyansk
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko acknowledged on national television that the fight wasn’t over yet.
Yet, he views the government’s recapture of Slovyansk as a turning point in Kyiv’s months-long battle against the separatist insurgency.
“It’s not a total victory,” he added. “But freeing Slovyansk from a heavily armed gang of monsters
has great symbolic importance. This is the start of a turning point in the fight against the rebels for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
A humanitarian operation has replaced the military one in Slovyansk.
“I reported back to the President of Ukraine and he has sent three planes with food that are due to arrive soon,” explained Ukrainian Minister of Defence Valery Heletey. “They will include – drinking water, food and other necessities. We are cooperating with the emergency ministry which will now take care of the peaceful citizens of Slovyansk.”
Yet this city of some 130,000 people remains a volatile place. “There was some shooting in the morning and during the night,” a resident said. Now it is quite. Only one or two fighters are left, and sometimes you can hear some shots.”
Ukraine’s president says he wants to work on a sustainable ceasefire across the region. He has urged Russia to use its influence to help de-escalate the crisis.
(BosNewsLife (2004-2014) is the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians. It has been ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since May 2004).
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