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Ukrainian Priest Shot Dead At Checkpoint

Ukrainian Priest Shot Dead At Checkpoint

Rostyslav Dudarenko appeared to confront Russian troops invading Ukraine.

A witness has said a priest in Ukraine was shot down by Russian forces while working at a checkpoint in the village of Yasnohorodka.

Village priest Rostyslav Dudarenko was among the thousands of Ukrainian civilians who have stepped up to help defend their country in the wake of Russia's invasion, and on the afternoon of 5 March he was tasked with checking vehicles approaching the checkpoint.

Dudarenko, 45, was dressed in civilian clothes at the time, but his presence on the scene also allowed him to offer spiritual support for other defenders amid the conflict.

Ukrainian soldier at checkpoint.

According to one survivor of the attack, who went by the pseudonym Yukhym, he and Dudarenko were manning the checkpoint with around a dozen others earlier this month when they learned three Russian tanks had driven through the village.

Yukhym told BBC News the group decided to hide in the woods and prepare to confront the invaders if necessary, but as the tanks approached the checkpoint the Russian troops started 'firing in all directions.'

"When they realised we were hiding in the grass, they went off road to run us over with tanks," he said.

The survivor claimed the tanks had driven back to the road when Dudarenko decided to break cover and seemingly try to get the attention of the Russian troops.

He described how he saw the priest 'raise the cross above his head [and] get up from his hideaway, screaming something and walking towards them.'

"Perhaps he wanted to stop them," Yukhym said. "I tried to call him."

Russians are said to have fired shots in the direction of the priest after he emerged from the woods, and from Yukhym's viewpoint it seemed all of the shots were aimed directly at Dudarenko.

"And that was it. He made just a couple of steps and fell," Yukhym recalled.

Dudarenko's mother Nadiia told the BBC her son 'wanted to be able to protect everyone', adding: "I tried to talk him out of it but I couldn't argue with him."

Yukhym himself was shot and injured in the attack, but at that moment Ukraine's armed forces arrived at the scene and began to push the Russians back. Had their troops not turned up, Yukhym believes the entire group would have been killed.

Tanks in Ukraine.

Those manning the checkpoint had no military status, though another volunteer, Eduard, said a couple of them had some military training from the long-running conflict with Russia in Donbas.

The group were armed with hunting rifles, a small number of Russian army Kalashnikovs and three bulletproof vests between them, but as a priest Dudarenko refused to bear arms.

Yukhym described him as a 'kind and optimistic person,' suggesting this may have been why he went to try and stop the opposing forces.

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677

Featured Image Credit: Ростислав Дударенко/Facebook/Alamy

Topics: Ukraine, Russia, World News, Politics