Thousands March In Support Of Ukraine’s Russia-Backed Church

Orthodox nuns salute priests during the service and religious procession celebrating the 1033rd anniversary of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus in Kiev on July 27, 2021.


Ukraine’s Russia-backed Orthodox Church gathered thousands of its followers on Tuesday in a show of force ahead of a historic visit by its rival and leader of the Orthodox world, Patriarch Bartholomew I.

More than 20,000 believers marched through Kiev despite coronavirus restrictions to mark the 1033 anniversary of the Christianisation of Rus, a term referring to eastern Slavic lands in the Middle Ages.

Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I recognised an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church in 2019 after Kiev sought to break religious ties with Russia following a conflict in the country’s east. The move was condemned by Moscow.

The leading authority in Orthodox Christianity is due in Ukraine next month to mark the country’s 30th anniversary of independence.

Analysts said the mass gathering in the Ukrainian capital was meant to be a demonstration of force by the Moscow-loyal branch of the church, which was severely weakened by the creation of the new church.

Kiev-based analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told AFP that the Moscow-backed church wanted to show “that they are the most powerful church in Ukraine”.

He said the church is “struggling for survival” and wanted to send “a signal to Moscow: don’t forget us.”

Moscow controlled part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for more than 300 years, but Bartholomew I’s decision created an independent unified Ukrainian church.

Ukraine’s Russia-aligned church — which still has a large number of parishes in the country — severed its ties with Constantinople, saying it would not take part in establishing a new church.

This move marked a new episode in the political, cultural and social divorce between Kiev and Moscow since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

England Demolish Ukraine To Set Up Denmark Semi-Final In Euro 2020

England's forward Harry Kane (09) scores the team's first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 quarter-final football match between Ukraine and England at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on July 3, 2021. ALESSANDRO GAROFALO / POOL / AFP
England’s forward Harry Kane (09) scores the team’s first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 quarter-final football match between Ukraine and England at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on July 3, 2021. ALESSANDRO GAROFALO / POOL / AFP


Harry Kane scored twice as a buoyant England cruised through to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 with a one-sided 4-0 win over Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.

Kane ended a worrying international scoring drought by netting in the 2-0 last-16 defeat of Germany in midweek and he put England ahead inside four minutes on a sweaty evening in the Italian capital.

Gareth Southgate’s side then put this quarter-final tie out of sight with two more goals early in the second half, one from Harry Maguire before Kane netted again.

Substitute Jordan Henderson got the fourth, and as Denmark lie in wait in the Wembley semi-final on Tuesday England will be confident of going on to reach a first ever European Championship final and even now claiming a first major international title since 1966.

The draw here was kind for them, with Ukraine surely as weak an opponent as they could hope to face in a quarter-final, a stage at which they have lost to the likes of Italy and Portugal in recent European Championships.

However the statistics are impressive, with England having come through five games at this tournament all without conceding a goal.

Some of their play in wide areas was outstanding, with Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho –- making his first start at the Euro –- too hot for Ukraine to handle.

Kane, their captain, had gone close to eight hours without finding the net for his country but his opener here was his second in just eight minutes following the late strike that secured victory over Germany.

Regardless of the opposition, their display at the Stadio Olimpico was a step-up in class in the final third to previous games at the Euro and they will be favourites at home against a Danish side who played their own quarter-final against the Czech Republic on Saturday in distant Baku.

Hat-trick of headers

This will be the only match England play away from home in the competition and it marked quite a difference to their defeat of the Germans, which was watched by more than 40,000 supporters at Wembley, where coronavirus restrictions were eased.

With Italy currently imposing a five-day quarantine on all arrivals from the United Kingdom, the number of England fans in Rome was limited to those already based in the European Union although they still made themselves heard in the crowd of under 12,000.

They had plenty to celebrate, unlike their Ukrainian counterparts, as Andriy Shevchenko’s team came up short in their bid to take the country to a first ever major tournament semi-final.

They scraped out of their group and then edged 10-man Sweden in extra time in the last 16, and their chances of shocking England looked dead and buried when they fell behind early on.

Sterling, who terrorised the Ukraine defence down the left, played in Kane who poked the ball past Georgiy Bushchan.

Ukraine’s giant striker Roman Yaremchuk forced a save from Jordan Pickford and a Declan Rice piledriver was kept out by Bushchan, with England looking comfortable.

However Ukraine were a different proposition after injured defender Serhiy Kryvtsov was replaced by Dynamo Kiev winger Viktor Tsygankov in the 36th minute.

They finished the first half strongly and more pessimistic England fans may have spent the interval reliving their exit from Euro 2016, when they lost to Iceland in the last 16 despite also having opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

They need not have worried.

England scored again less than a minute after the restart when a foul on Kane allowed Luke Shaw to deliver a free-kick from the left for Maguire to head in.

Four minutes after that Sterling supplied the overlapping Shaw and he crossed for a rejuvenated Kane to head home.

The Tottenham star nearly had his hat-trick, a stinging volley producing a fine save from Bushchan.

From Mason Mount’s resulting corner came the fourth goal, another header, this time from Henderson, the first of five substitutes sent on by Southgate who would have been thinking about the semi-final long before this quarter-final was officially over.



Putin Says Ukraine Is Controlled By Western Leaders

File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the members of the Security Council via teleconference call, in Moscow, Russia on November 6, 2020.
Alexey NIKOLSKY / Sputnik / AFP


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday questioned the point of meeting with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, claiming his country was effectively run by leaders in Washington and European capitals.

“What’s the use of meeting with Zelensky when he has given full control of his country to outside management?” Putin said during an annual televised phone-in with Russians.

“Key decisions are being made in Washington, and Berlin and Paris to some extent,” he added.

“I’m not refusing to meet with Zelensky, it’s just necessary to understand what there is to talk about”.

Ukraine has been battling pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

After a lull in fighting last year, the conflict escalated again at the start of 2021.

In April, as Russia amassed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and in Crimea, Zelensky invited Putin to meet in eastern Ukraine.

Putin shot down that offer, saying instead the Ukrainian leader was welcome in Moscow “any time”.

Russia later announced a troop pullback, but both Washington and Kiev say that the withdrawal has been limited.

READ ALSO: India Approves Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine For Emergency Use

File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 11, 2020. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP)


Putin on Wednesday described Ukraine’s leadership as “unfriendly,” but said Russians and Ukrainians were close. “We are one,” he said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky’s chief of staff, dismissed Putin’s claims of outside control as a “basic element of Russian propaganda.”

He also said the comments showed the Russian leader was misinformed by his own administration.

“The necessity of direct presidential talks is absolutely clear,” Podolyak said.

Speaking to AFP and other news agencies this month, Zelensky accused Russia of delaying the proposed meeting with Putin.

Kiev’s conflict with separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions broke out in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

The fighting has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of sending troops and arms to support the separatists, which Moscow has denied.


Ukraine Beat Sweden To Set Up Quarter-Final Tie With England

Ukraine’s forward Artem Dovbyk (R) celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Sweden and Ukraine at Hampden Park in Glasgow on June 29, 2021. Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP


Artem Dovbyk scored in the 121st minute as Ukraine beat 10-man Sweden 2-1 after extra time on Tuesday to book a quarter-final tie with England at Euro 2020.

Oleksandr Zinchenko put Ukraine ahead on 27 minutes in Glasgow but Emil Forsberg equalised for Sweden before half-time with his fourth goal of the tournament.

Marcus Danielson was sent off for Sweden in extra time before Dovbyk headed in a Zinchenko cross in stoppage time to send Ukraine through to face England in Rome on July 3.


UEFA Demands Ukraine Make Changes To ‘Political’ Jersey

A picture taken on June 6, 2021 shows a EURO 2020 jersey of the Ukrainian national football team. Ukraine provoked Moscow’s ire on June 6, 2021 as its football federation unveiled Euro 2020 uniforms that feature Russian-annexed Crimea and nationalist slogans. STRINGER / AFP


UEFA on Thursday demanded that Ukraine make changes to their jersey for Euro 2020 to remove a “political” slogan that sparked protests from Russia.

European football’s governing body said the message “Glory to the Heroes”, a rallying cry during the 2014 anti-Russia protests in Ukraine that is featured inside the shirt, was “clearly political in nature”.

Russia welcomed the move, but the Ukrainian football association said it was in talks with UEFA to reverse its decision.

The Ukrainians stressed to AFP that “earlier UEFA had approved the new kit and every element of it, including the slogan.”

On Tuesday, Russia had sent a letter of complaint to UEFA over the yellow jersey which on the front also features the outline of Ukraine including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted two photographs on Instagram of himself holding the jersey and said it bore “many important symbols that unify the Ukrainian people”.

The presidential press service then released a selfie Zelensky took of himself wearing the jersey.

“The Ukrainian national football team’s new jersey is in fact not like the others,” Zelensky said.

But UEFA said the map would not need to be removed or changed because a United Nations General Assembly Resolution “recognises the territorial borders as broadly depicted by the design”.

The slogan “Glory to Ukraine” was also approved by UEFA as “on its own (it) may be considered as a generic and non-political phrase of general national significance”.

That chant was also used by protesters who ousted a Kremlin-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych, during the Maidan demonstrations seven years ago.

Since annexing Crimea, Russia has backed pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. The ongoing conflict there has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.

Russia hailed UEFA’s decision, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying “sport is not a battlefield, rather it is a field for competition”.

“Become sporting heroes and you will have glory. Do it that way and not with nationalist slogans saying the motherland should be glorified,” Zakharova wrote on Telegram.

Ukraine begin their campaign at the European Championship on Sunday against the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Drawn in Group C, they also face Austria and North Macedonia.

Russia have been drawn in Group B alongside Belgium, Denmark and Finland. Their first match is against the Belgians in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.


Ukraine Receives First COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

This handout picture taken and released by Ukraine’s health ministry press-service on February 23, 2021 shows workers unloading a plane carrying 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at Kiev’s airport Boryspil. – After several delays, Ukraine on February 23, 2021 finally received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccine doses. (Photo by Handout / Ukraine health ministry / AFP) 


After several delays, Ukraine on Tuesday finally received its first shipment of Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The country of 40 million people is one of the poorest in Europe and one of the last in the region to begin inoculating its population.

A plane carrying 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, marketed under the name Covishield and produced at the Serum Institute in India — the world’s largest vaccine maker — landed at Kiev’s Boryspil airport.

“It has arrived,” health ministry spokeswoman Sofia Fedchenko told AFP.

Health Minister Maksym Stepanov was due to detail the ex-Soviet country’s vaccination strategy at a press conference later Tuesday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky had faced criticism for failing to obtain vaccines earlier for Ukraine, which suffers from an ageing healthcare system.

Zelensky has blamed the delay on wealthier Western countries that reserved the Pfizer and Moderna jabs in bulk, and has urged the EU to help eastern European countries source vaccines.

His government had originally announced that it would begin its vaccination campaign in mid-February, but the shipment of the first vaccine doses was delayed.

Ukraine is also awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the World Health Organization’s Covax programme.

Kiev has said it has also secured 17 million doses of vaccines developed by Novavax and AstraZeneca, including the 500,000 that arrived Tuesday.

It has also said it signed a contract to receive 1.9 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine.

Breakaway regions in the east controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists began a vaccine drive with Russia’s Sputnik V jab in early February.

Ukraine earlier this month banned vaccines developed by “aggressor states”, a designation Kiev has applied to Russia since 2015.

Ukraine’s pro-Western leadership has repeatedly rejected calls from pro-Moscow politicians to approve Sputnik V, denouncing the vaccine as a geopolitical tool.

Ukraine has recorded over 1.3 million cases and more than 25,000 deaths from the virus.

Ukraine Bans COVID-19 Vaccines From Russia

A Palestinian Red Crescent health worker prepares a dose of Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in the West Bank city of Hebron, on February 11, 2021. 


Ukraine has banned coronavirus vaccines produced in bitter rival Russia despite struggles to launch its vaccination campaign.

A resolution passed by the government on February 8 and posted on its website Wednesday banned the registration of vaccines from “aggressor states”, a designation Ukraine has applied to Russia since 2015.

Ukraine’s pro-Western leadership has repeatedly rejected calls from pro-Moscow politicians to approve Russia’s Sputnik V jab, denouncing the vaccine as a geopolitical tool.

Ukraine has been fighting separatists backed by Russia in its Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

The ban on Russian vaccines came despite criticism of President Volodymyr Zelensky for failing to source Western-made jabs. Not a single dose of any vaccine has yet to arrive in the ex-Soviet country.

Zelensky said this week that Ukraine, one of the poorest countries in Europe, would begin the first phase of the vaccination campaign later this month.

The country of some 40 million is awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the United Nations’ Covax programme and up to five million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac jab.

It has also secured 12 million doses of vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax, but that is still not enough to meet the country’s needs.

On Wednesday Ukraine said it launched an investigation into the country’s purchasing of coronavirus vaccines, highlighting the country’s struggle to end systemic graft.

Sputnik V has meanwhile been rolled out in the breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine that are controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists.

Ukraine has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and more than 24,000 deaths.


EU Chief Urges States To Donate Vaccines To Ukraine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain's Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP.


The European Commission chief said on Monday she had called on EU member states to donate some of their coronavirus jabs to Ukraine, which is trying to launch a vaccination campaign.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has faced criticism at home for failing to source Western-made jabs and has called on the EU to help Ukraine source vaccines.

Zelensky said on Monday that Ukraine, one of the poorest countries in Europe, would begin the first phase of the vaccination campaign later this month.

The country of some 40 million is awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the United Nations Covax programme and up to five million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac jab.

“On top of Covax, I have also asked our member states to donate part of their doses to Ukraine,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video address at a conference held in Ukraine’s capital Kiev.

“Thanks to Covax, Ukraine’s doctors and nurses will receive the first vaccines already this month,” she said, adding that “millions of other doses will reach Ukraine by the summer”.

Ukraine has not registered any vaccine so far and Zelensky has rejected calls from pro-Moscow politicians to approve Russia’s Sputnik V jab.

Last week, the post-Soviet country said it had also secured 12 million doses of vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax.

The total amount of the already secured doses is not enough to meet the needs of the country, however.

READ ALSO: French Health Minister Encourages Use Of AstraZeneca Jab

Speaking at the same conference on Monday, Zelensky also pointed to Ukrainians’ “mistrust” of vaccines, saying a “large part of the population” did not want to get vaccinated.

According to a recent poll conducted by the non-government Rating Group, more than half of Ukrainians said they were not ready to get inoculated, even for free.

Ukraine’s 43-year-old leader, who experienced mild symptoms of the coronavirus last year, said he was ready to get inoculated to encourage others to do the same.

“As a majority of world leaders, I am ready to show people by personal example that vaccination is important, it is safe, it is needed,” said Zelensky.

With its run-down health system, Ukraine has recorded over 1.2 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths.


Ukraine President Zelensky Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a press conference after a summit on Ukraine at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, on December 9, 2019. CHARLES PLATIAU / POOL / AFP


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday he tested positive for the novel coronavirus but felt fine as infections surged in the country.

“Despite all quarantine measures, I also had a positive test,” Zelensky said on Facebook.

The 42-year-old leader said that his temperature was 37.5C but that he felt “good”. He will self-isolate and continue to perform his duties, he added.

“Most people overcome Covid-19. And I will get through this too,” he said.

The head of Zelensky’s office Andriy Yermak also said that he had contracted the coronavirus.

In June, Zelensky’s wife Olena Zelenska was hospitalised after contracting the virus but has recovered.

On Saturday, the ex-Soviet country of 40 million people reported a record 10,746 new coronavirus infections.

Ukraine, one of Europe’s poorest countries, last week imposed fines on people who refuse to wear face masks in public places.

Officials have repeatedly criticised the general public for ignoring social distancing rules and other anti-virus restrictions, threatening to reintroduce a lockdown that was lifted in June.

In a bid to halt the spread of the virus, the country is considering whether to introduce a partial lockdown on weekends, with only essential businesses such as grocery stores allowed to remain open.

Since the start of the pandemic Ukrainian officials have reported more than 469,000 coronavirus cases and 8,565 deaths across the country.

Zelensky is latest in a long line of world leaders to contract the virus, including US President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Andrzej Duda of Ukraine’s neighbour Poland.


COVID-19: Andriy Shevchenko Calls Up Goalkeeper Coach For France Friendly

Ukraine’s head coach Andrii Shevchenko (C) speaks to his players during a training session at the Stade de France stadium, in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on October 6, 2020, on the eve of the friendly football match between France and Ukraine. FRANCK FIFE / AFP


Ukraine assistant coach Oleksandr Shovkovsky has been drafted into the coronavirus-hit squad for a friendly against France later Wednesday, at the age of 45 and four years since his last game of football.

Head coach Andriy Shevchenko has just Dynamo Kiev’s uncapped Georgiy Bushchan as an option in goal after Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin and veteran Yuriy Pankiv returned positive Covid-19 tests on Tuesday.

Those came after first-choice Andriy Pyatov’s positive test earlier in the week.

Shovkovsky, who won 92 caps for Ukraine, ended his professional career as a Dynamo Kiev player in December 2016, but “keeps himself in good physical shape”, Ukraine’s football association said in a statement.

Shovkovsky will only play against Les Bleus, with the kick-off set for 1910 GMT at the Stade de France, should Bushchan test positive for Covid or get injured, it added.

On Monday six squad members, all from Shakhtar Donetsk, withdrew from the game after club team-mates Pyatov and Taras Stepanenko contracted Covid-19.


Ukraine Plane Crash Death Toll Rises To 23

Resquers and experts work on the place of the Antonov-26 transport aircraft crash at Chuhuiv military air base around 30 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv.   SERGEY BOBOK / AFP


The death toll climbed to 23 on Saturday from the crash of a Ukrainian air force plane carrying mostly cadets in the east of the country, emergency services said.

The Antonov-26 transport plane was carrying 20 cadets and seven crew when it crashed late Friday two kilometres (about one mile) from the Chuguiv military airbase near the city of Kharkiv.

One more body was found under the charred remains of the plane early Saturday, the emergency services said, bringing the number of victims to 23. Two people were also injured.

“The search for two more people continues,” the services said in a statement.

The cause of the crash is being investigated.

Ukraine’s SBU security service said it was a training flight but the cadets of the Kharkiv National Air Force University were not involved in piloting the plane.

It said in a statement that according to the initial information the officer who was piloting reported the failure of one of the engines, and seven minutes later the plane hit the ground.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Andriy Taran said “the plane likely caught the ground with its wing” and caught fire after that.

“The flight recorder is now in the plane, after analysing the information that is recorded there, it will be possible to draw conclusions,” the defence ministry quoted Taran as saying.

The body of the plane burst into flames on landing and firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze after an hour.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who earlier described the crash as a “terrible tragedy”, is due in the Kharkiv region on Saturday.

The region, which borders Russia in the northeast, has declared Saturday a day of mourning.

Many grieving Ukrainians mourned the victims of the tragedy on social media.

“We send our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of the cadets, officers, and crew killed and injured in the An-26 plane crash,” US embassy in Ukraine wrote on Facebook.


22 Killed In Ukraine Military Plane Crash

This handout picture taken and released by the State Emergency Service of Ukraine on September 25, 2020 shows rescuers working on the place of the Antonov-26 transport aircraft crash at Chuhuiv military airbase, 30 kilometres southeast of Kharkiv. AFP


At least 22 people including military cadets were killed and two others seriously injured Friday when a Ukrainian air force plane crashed near Kharkiv in the east of the country, the interior ministry said. 

“Twenty-two people died,” Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko told AFP, adding that “the search for two other people is continuing”.

The transport plane was carrying a total of 28 passengers when it crashed, including 21 military students and seven crew, he said.

“It’s a shock,” he added. “At the moment it’s impossible to establish the cause” of the crash.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would travel to the region on Saturday.

“We are urgently creating a commission to investigate all the circumstances and causes of the tragedy,” he wrote on Facebook.

The Antonov-26 transport aircraft crashed at around 8:50 pm local time (17:50 GMT), two kilometres (1 mile) from the Chuhuiv military airbase, the emergency services said.

The plane caught fire after the crash and was extinguished after one hour.

The town of Chuhuiv is around 30 kilometres southeast of Kharkiv and 100 kilometres west of the front line with the pro-Russian separatists.