Russian forces step up mortar and artillery attacks on Kherson city in southern Ukraine, forcing civilians to flee the recently liberated town. The relentless shelling by Moscow’s troops came as Pope Francis appealed, yet again, for prayers to the Lord “to grant tormented Ukraine, oppressed by the brutality of war, the longed-for gift of peace.”
By Stefan J. Bos
Hundreds of residents and civilians try to escape Kherson. Reporters noticed a girl making a heart shape with both hands, waving goodbye to her best friend, and pressing against the glass partition.
It divides the entrance hall of Kherson’s train station from the waiting area.
Residents run away as Ukrainian authorities say Russian troops have fired dozens of rockets at civilian targets in a series of aerial and artillery bombardments on Kherson within 24 hours.
The president’s office claims Russian forces shelled even a hospital’s maternity wing in the city. However, no one was reportedly injured as the staff and patients moved to safety.
But the shelling underscores concerns that Russia will step up attacks during this festive season, with millions already facing a bitterly cold winter due to attacks on infrastructure.
The latest shelling came after at least ten people were killed and dozens injured in other Russian strikes in Kherson over the weekend as many began celebrating Christmas.
Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Kherson city last month, but its residents have faced relentless Russian shelling from the east bank of the Dnieper River.
There are no signs of peace returning to this troubled land, with the Kremlin dismissing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point peace plan. Instead, Moscow insists that any proposal to end the battle for Ukraine must consider what it calls “today’s realities.”
Russia demands that Ukraine give up four regions that Moscow has unilaterally declared part of Russia.
As fighting intensifies, air raid alerts have blared across Ukraine, including in the capital, Kyiv and Mykolaiv. But there were no immediate reports of any new Russian missile strikes.
Yet the tensions came as French armed forces minister, Sébastien Lecornu, arrived in Kyiv, his first visit to Ukraine since being appointed in May this year.
The trip, which includes visiting a memorial to the war dead, comes after France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, pledged to increase his nation’s military support for Ukraine.
Yet, there is mounting concern about human suffering on all sides, with at least tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian troops and civilians being killed and many more injured in this devastating war.
And many more people are injured or flee their homes, including here in Kherson.