Tragedy Strikes Odesa: Russian Air Attack Claims Lives and Damages Iconic Cathedral

Odesa cathedral damage in Russian attack
Credit: Oleksandr GIMANOV / AFP
In a tragic turn of events, the picturesque southern port city of Odesa in Ukraine fell victim to a devastating Russian air attack on Sunday. According to Ukrainian officials, the assault resulted in the loss of one life, injuries to nearly 20 people, and inflicted severe damage on an iconic Orthodox cathedral. Amidst the rubble, rescuers managed to salvage the city’s revered patroness icon. This harrowing incident unfolded in the heart of Odesa’s historic UNESCO world heritage site, leaving the community in shock and mourning.

Governor Oleh Kiper expressed his dismay on the Telegram messaging app, denouncing the attack as yet another night of terror brought on by the invading forces. The missile strikes not only claimed innocent lives but also demolished six residential buildings, leaving many homeless. Among the structures significantly impacted was the majestic Spaso-Preobrazhenskyi Cathedral, also known as the Transfiguration Cathedral, which has long been a symbol of spiritual and historical significance for Odesa.

Andriy Palchuk, the archdeacon of the cathedral, narrated the tragic sequence of events. The missile struck the sacred right altar chapel, causing a fire that spread through the religious artifacts display area, where candles, icons, and books were available for worshippers. This devastating blow marks the second time the cathedral has faced destruction in its history; the first being in 1936 during Stalin’s anti-religious campaigns. The resilient community rebuilt it after Ukraine gained independence in 1991, emphasizing the cathedral’s enduring spiritual importance.

Ukraine’s defense ministry lamented the cathedral’s fate, blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and likening the attack to an assault by Stalin himself. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed condemnation for the ruthless aggression and vowed to retaliate against the Russian terrorists responsible for the devastation. Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered her nation’s assistance in the cathedral’s reconstruction, decrying the destruction of cultural symbols and the disruption of vital grain exports.

Russia’s defense ministry disputed Ukrainian reports, denying responsibility for striking the cathedral. Instead, they attributed the damage to a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile. They claimed their own strikes targeted terrorist preparations in the Odesa area, asserting that all of their designated targets were destroyed. Meanwhile, pro-Kremlin military bloggers asserted a shift in Russian air attack tactics, using a relentless “swarm” approach, making defense more challenging for Ukraine.

The cathedral holds special significance as part of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which ranks as the country’s second-largest Church. In recent years, the UOC distanced itself from the Russian Orthodox Church, with the belief that the Russian authority has been involved in the invasion. This breakaway has led to tension and accusation, further adding to the complexity of the region’s geopolitical situation.

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