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Kirill condemns ‘devilish’ attacks in Dagestan

25 June 2024


Aftermath of the attack on Sunday on the Assumption Cathedral, Makhachkala

Aftermath of the attack on Sunday on the Assumption Cathedral, Makhachkala

PATRIARCH KIRILL of Moscow has condemned Islamist attacks on churches and synagogues in Dagestan.

Attacks in the cities of Derbent and Makhachkala left up to 20 police and residents dead, including a priest, and destroyed or damaged several churches and synagogues.

“It is no coincidence that one of the most important holidays for Orthodox believers was selected to carry out this daring crime, which clearly exposes the terrorists’ devilish intentions,” the Patriarch said in a letter to the southern republic’s governor, Sergei Melikov, who pledged to restore the gutted places of worship.

“We see how the enemy is not abandoning attempts to destroy interreligious peace and harmony within our society,” Kirill wrote.

And in a letter to the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Varlaam (Ponomarev) of Makhachkala and Grozny, Kirill said that “ideologists and perpetrators” of the “barbaric terrorist attack” in Dagestan had “cynically chosen” the feast of Pentecost, “seeking to sow seeds of hatred and discord between representatives of different nationalities, cultures and religions”.

Officials confirmed that an elderly Orthodox cleric, Archpriest Nikolai Kotelnikov, had been murdered at the Church of the Intercession in Derbent on Sunday, and the church was set on fire. The attackers also targeted the Assumption Cathedral at Makhachkala, 70 miles north, in a series of co-ordinated raids that included synagogues.

Although no group has claimed responsibility, the action has been widely blamed on Islamic State, which carried out the killing of 145 people at a Moscow concert hall in March (News, 28 March).

The Russian National Anti-Terrorist Centre said that five attackers had been eliminated, as security forces completed their “anti-terrorist counter-operation”, although street fighting was reported to have continued in the two towns on Monday morning.

Patriarch Kirill also criticised a weekend Ukrainian missile strike on Russian-occupied Crimea in which civilians were killed and injured — although he made no mention of simultaneous attacks by Russia on civilian targets in Ukraine.

It was reported that a drone attack on targets around the port of Sevastopol led to the death of five Russian holidaymakers and the injury of at least 100 by falling debris at a nearby beach.

“A missile attack on civilians cannot have any justification. I am particularly saddened and indignant that the holy day of Pentecost was chosen,” Kirill told Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Simferopol and Crimea in a message on Sunday.

Russia vowed retaliation for the attack on Crimea, which was accompanied by drone attacks on Belgorod, Bryansk, Smolensk, Lipetsk, and Tula in western Russia.

The Crimea attack coincided with the continued Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Poltava, and Kherson, in Ukraine, which inflicted power blackouts and left civilians dead and injured.

In a Sunday sermon, the Primate of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), urged citizens to protect themselves from the “tricks of the devil” with “faith, prayer and good deeds”.

In a national message on Monday, the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, confirmed that health-care facilities had been targeted in Russia’s latest attacks, and said that he had been shocked by a video depicting the beheading of a Ukrainian PoW, which suggested to him that “the occupiers are losing their ordinary human reason”.

The Archbishop reminded the Ukrinform news agency that Greek Catholic churches had been destroyed or taken over by Russian Orthodox clergy in occupied areas during the 28-month war, with all Catholic clergy arrested, deported, or forced to flee.

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