Vladimir Bandura appeared in a video claiming that Ukrainian forces had killed monks and burned down an Orthodox monastery
The former mayor of the formerly Ukrainian-occupied city of Svyatogorsk, Vladimir Bandura, has moved to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). Last Tuesday, the official appeared in a video accusing the Ukrainian army of murdering Orthodox monks and burning down a monastery in early June.
In his Telegram post on Monday, DPR President Denis Pushilin revealed that he had “in contact for a long timewith Bandura, adding that the mayor “was waiting, like many residents of Svyatogorsk, for liberation and supports the special military operation.”
The DPR president accompanied his message with a photo, depicting him with Bandura, seated at a table.
Pushilin explained that “for obvious reasons” the mayor “had to keep his position a secret,” in order to “save the people.”
The DPR leader then announced that he had decided to reinstate Bandura as mayor of Svyatogorsk, which he said was taken over by the DPR and Russian forces.
After Ukrainian troops withdrew from Svyatogorsk earlier this month, several media outlets in the country initially reported that the city’s mayor had been captured by Russian forces.
On June 7, a video with Bandura was published and later quoted by Russian media, in which the official made damning accusations against the Ukrainian armed forces. The mayor stated, among other things, that there was “information, confirmed information, that the Nazis kill priests and monks and cover up these facts.In addition to this, Bandura alleged that Ukrainian troops burned down an Orthodox monastery in Svyatogorsk.
Shortly after, Ukrainian authorities launched an investigation into the mayor, claiming the person responsible was “discrediting the Ukrainian armed forces and the state,and spread a “Fake Russian.”
The fire, which Bandura references in his video, engulfed the Skete of All Saints on June 4. The area was still under Ukrainian control at the time, although heavy fighting had already been going on there for several days, according to media reports.
Moscow and kyiv were quick to point fingers. A Ukrainian officer from the 95th Airborne Assault Brigade, Yuri Kochevenko, described the fire as a “criminality“at the hands of”Russian Barbarians.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took the opportunity to call again for Russia’s expulsion from UNESCO.
The Russian army, in turn, accused the Ukrainian units of deliberately firing incendiary shells at the skite before retreating. Moscow claimed that there were eyewitnesses, whose accounts corroborated this version of events.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the republics from the Donbass of Donetsk and Lugansk. The Minsk Protocol, brokered by Germany and France, was designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.