One Indian religious sister serving in western Ukraine says Russian soldiers are “butchering” innocent civilians in areas of the country they have invaded.

Sister Ligy Payyappilly of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Saint Mark lives in Mukachevo, which is near the borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania and therefore a crossing point for refugees fleeing the conflict in the east of Ukraine.

She says the Russian invasion of Ukraine “is not only the war of military combat with weapons, but it is all about the massacres and repression and brutal sexual assault on innocent women and children.”

Payyappilly told Crux that the stories reported in the press of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by Russian troops in areas they control are true.

“Is it what we call war? Shooting innocent men point blank, raping young women and mothers in front of their children, brutally injuring the pregnant women? How can these people become so cruel?”

Convents and other religious houses in western Ukraine have been housing refugees since the war began. Most of those fleeing the conflict are women and children.

“Here women and girls have recounted the abuse and they are suffering at the hands of Russian soldiers. Women are grappling with the threat of rape as a weapon of war.  The Russian army physically tortures and kills a mother in front of a six-year-old son,” said Payyappilly.

“The cruelty and vicious persecution of the soldiers against the mother after being raped brutally and the woman died of physical and mental anguish in front of her son. The six bodies of women being found under a tire in Kargiv. The Russian army has carried out mass killings and dead bodies can be seen on the roadsides without having arms and legs. I do not know how many days it will take to bury them,” she continued.

“This is butchering of the innocents. No civilized society can approve it,” the religious sister added.

Payyappilly said Ukraine is living its Way of the Cross in these days, but the nation still has hope.

“It all started eight years ago [when Russia first occupied Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine] and now, since February 24, this war has become our Good Friday. We know that when Jesus went up from Pilate to Golgotha, his face and clothes covered in blood – the same is happening today in Ukraine; the blood of the innocent is everywhere,” she explained.

“Truly, here we can meet many mothers who mourn their children just as Mary suffered before the Cross for her beloved Son. I am sure that Our Lady is interceding for Ukrainian mothers. She can understand the pain of these mothers. For Ukraine, the more this war goes on, the more innocent people will die, especially women and children. Here we can see so much cruelty – 9-, 10-, 11-year-old girls raped by Russian soldiers and killed. Today Golgotha is really in Ukraine,” the religious sister continued.

“But we know that Easter comes after Good Friday. We believe and know that God is with us. Easter will come for us too; our sufferings will end. Let us pray that the dawn of the Resurrection may come for us, too. Jesus died for us. He knows our sufferings and can understand us. We are waiting for our Easter, especially for Ukraine, an Easter of hope and peace,” she told Crux.

Payyappilly lamented the fact that Ukraine and Russia, two predominantly Orthodox nations with much shared history, are now at war.

“People of God fighting each other: Brothers separated in peace, now fighting to conquer the other. It is heartbreaking,” she said.

“Let God open the heart of the perpetrators that he may stop this aggression. Let us pray for peace in Ukraine.”