Ukraine’s leading Catholic archbishop says an independent Ukraine is synonymous with religious freedom.

The Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk was speaking in his address marking the 122th week of the full-scale Russian invasion.

In his video message, Shevchuk said the last week was marked by Russia’s “war crimes against the civilian population of Ukraine.”

Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

There have been increased aerial attacks by both sides in the past few months, and intense fighting continues in the east of the country.

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In the Sumy Oblast, Shevchuk accused the Russians of using drones to deliberately attack an evacuation transport that volunteers were supposed to use to take the local population out of the border area.

“Blood, tears, suffering from the Ukrainian land reach the heavens,” the major archbishop said.

He also said that on the eve of the meeting of the leaders of the “Big Seven” and the Peace Summit in Switzerland organized by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a meeting of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations took place with the ambassadors of the “Big Seven” countries in Kyiv.

“During our discussion, in particular, attention was focused on two issues that, according to international observers, could be challenges for religious freedom in Ukraine,” Shevchuk said.

“The first is Moscow’s attempt to use the religious factor to manipulate the religious feelings of believers. It is obvious that our state has the right and duty to protect the religious environment of Ukraine from manipulation, from the instrumentalization of the issue of religion by the aggressor,” he said.

The major archbishop said the issue of military chaplaincy was also raised.

“It is known that today clergymen of all denominations do not have the legal right to reservations during mobilization. So, how is it possible, on the one hand, to provide for the needs of the military chaplaincy, and on the other hand, not to curtail the spiritual care of Churches and religious organizations over the civilian population of Ukraine?” Shevchuk said.

“In addition, the representatives of the Churches shared their thoughts on how the heads of the Churches and religious organizations conduct dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities in order to reach a certain understanding in this area,” he continued.

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“Obviously, we argued that for all Churches, believers of various denominations and religions, an independent Ukraine is synonymous with religious freedom. After all, where the occupying Russian authorities come, any freedom, including religious freedom, disappears,” he added.

The Ukrainian organized peace summit in Switzerland was organized around the G7 meeting taking place last week in Italy.

The leaders’ communiqué issued by the G7 nations — the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada — pledged to loan $75 billion in military aid to Ukraine by the end of the year.

“We remain determined to dispel any false notion that time is on Russia’s side, that destroying infrastructure and livelihoods has no consequences for Russia, or that Russia can prevail by causing Ukraine to fail economically,” the leaders’ statement says.

In addition, Zelenskyy and United States President Joe Biden signed a 10-year security pact at the G7 summit, signaling America’s long-term commitment to Ukraine.