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Archbishop of Canterbury shelters as Russians bombard Kyiv in early-morning attack

07 February 2024

Francis Martin/Church Times

The Archbishop of Canterbury and members of his delegation in the bomb shelter beneath their hotel

The Archbishop of Canterbury and members of his delegation in the bomb shelter beneath their hotel

AT LEAST four people were killed in Russian missile strikes on Kyiv on Wednesday morning. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is visiting Ukraine this week (News, 5 February), spent almost three hours in an air-raid shelter.

A barrage of Russian missiles was launched at Kyiv and other Ukrainian regions early on Wednesday morning, claiming at least five lives around the country and leaving dozens injured.

“It is heartbreaking to hear of the loss of life in Kyiv this morning in this appalling attack by Russia. I am praying for all those affected and their families,” Archbishop Welby said on Wednesday afternoon.

Awoken shortly before 6 a.m. by alerts on an official mobile-phone app used to warn of incoming airstrikes, the Archbishop’s delegation went to the air-raid shelter — converted from an underground car park— in the basement of their hotel in the centre of Kyiv.

“We were safe and well in a very secure shelter, but it is a stark reminder of the dangers people here are facing every day, even when it doesn’t hit the headlines; a reminder again that, with all the crises in the world, we must not and will not forget Ukraine,” the Archbishop said.

Many Ukrainians have no access to effective air-raid shelters, and so remain in their homes during the attacks, while others choose not to take shelter because doing so proves too disruptive to everyday life.

Archpriest Andriy Dudchenko, a senior lecturer at the Orthodox Church of Ukraine’s theological academy in Kyiv, told the Church Times that when the alarm sounded he continued his morning as normal. “If we went to the shelter every time, we wouldn’t be able to live,” he explained.

In the past two weeks, the air-raid alerts have tended to last for about 30 minutes before the all-clear is transmitted, but, on Wednesday morning, the notice to take shelter was maintained for almost three hours.

The barrage was one of the most extensive since mid-January, following an uptick in Russian aerial attacks on Ukraine, and Kyiv in particular, since the end of December, when 33 people were killed in Kyiv, out of a total of 58 fatalities around the country.

After the air-raid alert had lifted on Wednesday morning, Archbishop Welby continued with a planned meeting with the Ukraine multi-country response director of the Christian aid agency World Vision, Chris Palusky, who works extensively around the country.

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