Firefighters work at the site of an industrial warehouse destroyed by a Russian drone strike in Lviv, Ukraine, Sept. 19, 2023. OSV News photo/Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Lviv region handout via Reuters

Russian drones destroy Caritas warehouse in overnight Ukraine attack, killing one

By  Gina Christian, OSV News
  • September 20, 2023

A Russian aerial attack on the western Ukrainian city of Lviv has killed one and destroyed a warehouse belonging to Caritas-Spes, the Roman Catholic mission of Caritas in Ukraine.

Russian forces launched a wave of Shahed drones over Ukraine during the overnight hours of Sept. 18-19. The Lviv Regional State Administration said on its Telegram channel that while seven exploding drones were shot down, three hit industrial warehouses in Lviv, killing a 32-year-old man and injuring two more, ages 26 and 68.

On its Facebook page, Caritas-Spes Ukraine said that none of its staff were hurt, but its own "warehouse with everything inside burned to the ground."

Tetiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine, told OSV News that the warehouse "actually belonged to a businessman who was donating space" to Caritas-Spes.

She said the person killed in the attack was a security guard for the building.

Alistair Dutton, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis -- a global federation of Catholic aid organizations -- said in a Sept. 19 statement the attack was "an outrage and a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law."

Among the items destroyed were "33 pallets of food kits, 10 pallets of hygiene kits and cans, 10 pallets with generators and clothing," said the agency on its Facebook page.

Caritas-Spes also said "about 300 tons of humanitarian trucks burned in the warehouse," but that "vehicles with humanitarian cargo" were able to be rescued from the attack.

"This is not the first time when (the) Russian Federation has attacked humanitarian warehouses in Ukraine," said the agency on its Facebook page.

Noting that "it is difficult to count all the attacks on humanitarian warehouses due to the confidentiality of information," Caritas-Spes said that "according to media reports, in May this year, the warehouses of two humanitarian organizations in Odesa and Ternopil were destroyed."

In remarks posted to the website of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, Father Vyacheslav Hrynevych, executive director of Caritas-Spes, said the attack "once again confirmed the real intentions of Russia," since there were no militarily strategic objects near the warehouse.

He also noted that cargo had only yesterday been loaded into the warehouse.

The attack will delay the distribution of badly needed aid, he said.

"From the beginning of the full-scale invasion, we managed to organize a whole network that was clearly configured for the needs of humanitarian projects," said Father Hrynevych. "Tonight, one branch of this network was destroyed, so this will delay the delivery of humanitarian supplies that have already been planned and distributed, and that people in great need have been waiting for. Unfortunately, they will not receive this help now."

Since the start of 2023, Caritas-Spes has provided assistance to more than 280,000 people in 23 regions and 15,000 settlements, the agency said in a post on the website of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion -- launched in February 2022 and continuing attacks initiated in 2014 -- 1,048,546 people have received help from Caritas-Spes, according to the agency.

Russia's war on Ukraine has been declared a genocide in two joint reports issued May 2022 and July 2023 by New Lines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

As of Sept. 19, Russia has killed more than 9,614 Ukrainian civilians and injured some 17,535, while committing close to 107,00 documented war crimes since February 2022.

Currently, there are an estimated 5.1 million individuals internally displaced within Ukraine, according to the International Organization for Migration, part of the United Nations network. More than 6.2 million Ukrainians have sought safety abroad since the start of the full-scale invasion.

At least 2.5 million Ukrainians are believed to have been forcibly taken to the Russian Federation, with close to 19,600 children being held in Russian "re-education" camps, with the actual number for the latter feared to be much higher.

Russia's war has resulted in profound environmental damage to Ukraine due to air, soil and water contamination from munitions and from the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy traveled to the U.S. to address the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 19 and the U.N. Security Council Sept. 20 in New York. He began his U.S. trip Sept. 18 by visiting wounded soldiers at nearby Staten Island University Hospital. On Sept. 21, Zelenskyy meets in Washington with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House and with congressional members on Capitol Hill.

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