As Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure continue, the dilemmas facing Ukrainians multiply. 

For elderly residents of Kyiv, living in a high-rise building poses a new threat – getting stuck in an elevator during one of the now frequent power outages. Many senior citizens have stopped going out altogether. Younger Kyivites are boldly playing this new Russian roulette while reducing the risks involved by making lifts more pleasant to hang around in. Cardboard boxes have appeared in the elevators of apartment blocks. They contain everything you might need in case of a sudden power outage – water, cookies, wet wipes, blood pressure and heart pills, a mat, and a flashlight. Some elevators are even furnished with a couple of folding chairs.

Winter is creeping across Ukraine bringing freezing temperatures and some novel problems, like deciding when to celebrate Christmas.

A month ago, the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukrainian (Kyiv Patriarchate) took a further step towards democracy by permitting its faithful to choose for themselves whether to celebrate together with Europe on Dec. 25 or in the Orthodox tradition on Jan. 7.

Very different messages are coming from Kyiv’s Pechersk Lavra – a center of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. During a service, believers recently prayed for Russia and sang hymns glorifying “Holy Rus.” The prayers were captured on video and Father Zacharias, who led them, was temporarily suspended from church duties. Very soon some interesting stories surfaced about Father Zacharias. It turns out, he was the spiritual father of many Ukrainian politicians and statesmen during Yanukovych’s presidency. He is even compared with Rasputin and is said to have performed miracles – predicting the dollar exchange rate.

Ukraine’s Summer Send-Off
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Ukraine’s Summer Send-Off

Between now and autumn, Ukraine is expected to battle Russian advances along a 1,000-kilometer front line, hoping recently supplied Western weapons and ammunition will help hold back Russian forces.

Ukraine’s security services recently visited senior figures in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Some of them had their property searched. Several priests were detained by the police for anti-state activities: for example, passing information about the Ukrainian army and the mood of the population in different regions of the country to Russian curators.

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Russian Kleptomania

The Moscow Patriarchate is no doubt concerned by these developments, but the Russian occupation forces have been busy collecting other things for them to worry about. The church will now have to decide what to do with the bones of Prince Potemkin – the lover of Russian Empress Catherine II – which were exhumed from a tomb in Kherson and carried off by the retreating Russian forces. Perhaps the Russian Orthodox Church is planning to promote the playboy and reveler to sainthood.

Potemkin’s bones were not the only thing the Russian occupiers took from Kherson as they fled. They also removed two monuments – one to Alexander Suvorov, the Russian Tsarist Marshal, and the other to Admiral Fyodor Ushakov. But, much more importantly, they took the entire contents of the Kherson Regional Art Museum and the Local Lore Museum, including 15 thousand works of art.

They were all transported to the other side of the Dnipro River, along with the archives from the pension fund and the police.

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On top of that, the occupiers raided the “zoo corner” – so loved by Kherson’s younger inhabitants – and kidnapped a donkey, two peacocks, and a raccoon.

The raccoon obviously did not want to leave – he did his best to hide and resisted fiercely. Oleg Zubkov, the owner of a private zoo in Yalta, Crimea, was brought in to deal with the troublesome animal. Zubkov grabbed the raccoon by the tail and stuffed him into a box. He filmed this battle and shared the video online.

The raccoon is now famous. Even Russians have started to joke about how he was captured, suggesting that the war can now end since, obviously, the whole point of it was to kidnap Ukraine’s most militant raccoon.

While Kherson was being liberated, another animal-related story came to an end. It did not get as much media attention as the raccoon’s tale. The dog called Crimea died. He survived the missile attack on Dnipro that killed his owners – the young girl Vasylisa, her brother, Ivan, their mother, and grandmother. Crimea was shell-shocked and temporarily blinded. He was not able to react to anything around him – only tears flowed from his eyes. He was taken to a veterinary clinic for treatment. There, his heart stopped.

Every day there are more and more homeless pets in Ukraine, but there are also more volunteers helping to deal with this problem. They have become increasingly active, finding new ways to save cats and dogs left without owners. Recently, an unusual day of acquaintances was arranged in one of Kyiv’s vegan cafés “Sereda,” in Podil. The Sirius Animal Shelter brought a dozen puppies to the café where it had been announced that from 12 noon to 2 p.m. you could come and choose a pet. “Defeating the darkness is easier with a faithful four-legged friend!” was the project’s slogan. It is true that even getting stuck in the elevator is less scary if you have your dog with you. True, they had better add more water and some dog biscuits to the emergency boxes!

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