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Pope Francis: ‘Cardinal Krajewski in Ukraine to show my closeness’

ukraine warPope Francis renews his prayers for the people of Ukraine amid the ongoing war, and says he has sent Cardinal Konrad Krajewski to the country to offer his and the Church’s concrete closeness.

By Stefan J. Bos & Devin Watkins

“We continue to pray for the Ukrainian people, that the Lord will give them comfort and hope.”

Pope Francis made that appeal on Sunday as he spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer.

The Pope also recalled that he has sent Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, to Ukraine to visit various communities and “offer concrete witness to the closeness of the Pope and the Church.”

The Holy See Press Office announced the Polish-born Cardinal’s fourth visit to the country on Wednesday. He will travel to the cities of Odessa, Žytomyr, Kharkiv and other places in eastern Ukraine.

Nuclear meltdown concerns

Pope Francis’ appeal comes as the situation at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant continues to worry international experts.

The agency in charge of the site in Ukraine, Energoatom, said operations at the power station had been entirely halted, explaining that a power restoration to the plant had allowed it to do the safest thing and pull down its sixth and last working reactor.

Yet concerns remain as Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling the site, risking a nuclear disaster.

As a result, Kyiv has urged residents in the area to evacuate Russian occupied regions around the plant for their own safety. But, without the plant working as usual, Ukraine faces difficulties in energy supplies ahead of winter.

The plant, operational since 1984, accounted for 40 percent of the total electricity generated by Ukrainian nuclear power plants and one-fifth of electricity generated in the country.

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Eastern counteroffensive

The shutdown, monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog comes amid signs that Ukraine's military forced the Russian army to pull back thousands of troops after suffering a series of battlefield defeats.

Ukraine appears to have regained control of the two key cities of Kupiansk and Izyum after a recent counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region.

Retaking territory

And the regional governor says the Ukrainian flag has also been raised in the city of Balakliya. Troops entered after wrong footing Russian forces with a much publicized Ukrainian southern offensive to distract Russia from the real one being prepared in the Kharkiv region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claims his forces have retaken over 2,000 square kilometers, some 772 square miles, in a rapid counter-offensive in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed the withdrawal of its troops from Izyum, the primary base for Moscow's forces in Kharkiv. However, it claimed they were being regrouped so that efforts could be stepped up in Donetsk.

However, Zelensky warned that Donetsk is another area in the east that Kyiv wants to recapture one day completely.

“The entire Donetsk region will be liberated and safe and happy again, as it should be in Ukraine, as it should be everywhere on our land,” the president says.

Zelensky adds, “The movement of our soldiers in different directions of the front continues as part of active actions. Since the beginning of September, about 2,000 kilometers of our territory have already been liberated.”

Suffering continuing

Yet, 200 days after the Russian invasion began, the war seems far from over, with Russian troops still holding about one fifth of the country. And there are reports of widespread torture of prisoners of war and forced deportations.

Kyiv also says that Moscow is sending 1,300 Chechen fighters to the southern Kherson region, where Russian forces are under sustained pressure from Ukrainian attacks.

Tens of thousands, including many soldiers, are believed to have died in Europe's most significant conflict since the Second World War, which has displaced millions of people.

Among the victims was a woman killed and at least 20 civilians injured in Russian shelling over the weekend in the Kharkiv area.

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