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Drone attack destroys Catholic charity’s warehouse in West Ukraine

Fires burn in Lviv Ukraine after drone attack

YURIY DYACHYSHYN | AFP

John Burger - published on 09/20/23

Material stored in Caritas facility included generators donated by Vatican and humanitarian aid destined for other parts of war-torn country.

An apparent drone attack on the Western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Tuesday morning destroyed a warehouse with 300 tons of humanitarian aid, including some that had been recently donated by the Vatican.

The approximately 81,000-square-foot warehouse was used by the Catholic aid agency Caritas-Spes, whose executive director, Fr. Vyacheslav Grynevych, told Aleteia that material stored there was donated by families in Poland and other parts of Europe. It was destined for parts of the war-torn country, including Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kherson, where shops and markets have been destroyed.

The Institute for the Study of War reported that Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/-136 drone and ballistic missile strikes on Ukrainian rear areas on September 19.

“Ukrainian military officials stated that Russian forces launched 31 drones from Krasnodar Krai and 1 Iskander-M ballistic missile from occupied Crimea and that Ukrainian forces shot down 28 drones,” the Washington-based think tank said in its daily report on the war in Ukraine. “The Ukrainian State Service for Emergency Situations reported that Russian drones hit industrial warehouses in Lviv, and the Ukrainian General Staff reported that the Russian Iskander missile hit Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated on September 19 that Russian strikes on Ukrainian port and grain infrastructure have destroyed at least 280,000 tons of grain in recent months, which he stated would have been enough to feed up to 10.5 million people for a year.”

Fr. Grynevych said there was no loss of life at the warehouse, which was hit at about 5 am local time. 

Among the material that was lost were preserved food, clothing, hygiene kits and generators, which may very well be needed in the coming cold months, if Russia again attacks civilian power infrastructure in Ukraine, as it did last year. 

“Just yesterday we received from Poland a truck of humanitarian boxes that were prepared by Polish families in order to give to Ukrainian families,” Fr. Grynevych said. That was expected to be distributed to 660 Ukrainian families. “Furthermore, we had about seven tons of generators and other things for the winter time, for winterization, from the Holy See, from [Pope Francis’ charity point man] Cardinal Krajewski. It is really very sad because we have to reorganize.”

UN condemnation

Fortunately, members of the Caritas staff were able to save the agency’s cars, which were parked outside the warehouse, as firefighters continued to battle the blaze Tuesday morning. Fr. Grynevych said he could hear cans of preserved food exploding in the fire as he spoke by cell phone with his staff on the scene. 

The priest said he could not disclose the warehouse’s exact location out of security concerns, but said it is within the city limits of Lviv, which is close to the border with Poland. 

Just last week, the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, declared that the Russian invasion poses a threat to several historical sites, including the historic city center of Lviv.

Denise Brown, UN humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, issued a statement on the September 19 attack.

“I condemn in the strongest terms a Russian airstrike that destroyed the warehouse of the non-governmental organization Caritas-Spes in Lviv, western Ukraine, in the early hours of today,” Brown said. “The vital humanitarian facility, which contained approximately 300 tons of relief supplies, was burned to the ground.”

Brown said that attacks impacting humanitarian assets have escalated throughout the year “and ultimately impact those who are suffering the horrific consequences of the war.”

“Humanitarian workers, facilities and assets are protected under international humanitarian law,” Brown said. “Direct attacks or indiscriminate attacks are strictly prohibited. International humanitarian law is not an option, it is an obligation and must be upheld.”

Fr. Grynevych suspects that the drone directly targeted the warehouse. “There’s not one military object, not one group of soldiers” in the area, he said. “For us it’s one more sign that Russia attacks not just military objects, not just infrastructure, but also humanitarian objects.

“To understand the logic of Russia in these attacks,” he said, “it’s very difficult.”

Tags:
RussiaUkraine
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