A four-year-old girl killed by a Russian missile strike was laid to rest during an emotional ceremony in central Ukraine Sunday — as Moscow’s forces continued their onslaught, hitting industrial facilities in the country’s south.
Little Liza looked serene in a crown of white flowers as she lay in an open coffin, with teddy bears and flowers over her, inside the 18th-century Transfiguration Cathedral in the city of Vinnytsia.
“We know that evil cannot win,” an Orthodox priest insisted to weeping relatives during the service, his voice trembling.
“I didn’t know Liza, but no person can go through this with calm,” the priest, Vitalii Holoskevych, said while breaking into sobs. “Because every burial is grief for each of us. We are losing our brothers and sisters.”
Liza, who had Down syndrome, was mortally wounded while on her way to a speech therapy class with her mother Thursday.
She was one of the at least 24 people killed in the Russian strikes, including two boys, ages 7 and 8. Among the more than 200 injured was Liza’s mother, 33-year-old Iryna Dmytrieva, who remains in intensive care in grave condition.
She doesn’t know her daughter was buried Sunday because the family didn’t want it to affect her condition.
“Your mommy didn’t even see how beautiful you are today,” grandmother Larysa Dmytryshyna said as she cried.
The girl’s family fled Kyiv at the start of the war to Vinnytsia, which was considered relatively safe.
While Russian forces have focused on the Donbas in the east, they have hit areas across the country.
Moscow has struck industrial facilities in the strategic southern city of Mykolaiv, a key shipbuilding center in the estuary of the Southern Bug river.
Russian military leaders have said they want to cut off Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast in the southern region of the country up to the Romanian border.
If Moscow is successful, it could deal a crushing blow to Ukraine’s economy and trade. It would also allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to a separatist region of Transnistria that has a military base.
Russian missile strikes have regularly rained on both Mykolaiv and Odesa while troops halted their attempts to advance in the area after they failed to take Mykolaiv at the start of the war.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that missiles destroyed a depot for anti-ship Harpoon missiles given to Ukraine from NATO allies, though that claim could not be independently confirmed.
To stop a feared Ukrainian counter-offensive, Russia is looking to reinforce their positions in the Kherson region near Crimea and part of the northern Zaporizhzhia region they took in the beginning of the Feb. 24 invasion.
The British Defense Ministry said Sunday Russian was moving manpower within that area while increasing security around Melitopol.
“Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the reinforcement of the south whilst the fight for the Donbas continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat,” the defense ministry said.
In the Donbas, where the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces are located, Kyiv said its forces still retain control of two small villages in the Luhansk region, which is one of the two provinces that make up the Donbas. Ukraine said it is successfully fending off Russian attempts to advance deeper in the other province, Donetsk.
During a visit to the front lines Saturday, Russian Defense Minster Sergei Shoigu told troops to “to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas.”
The Russian military said it struck Ukrainian troops and artillery positions in Donbas in its most recent series of strikes, including a US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher, though that claim could be not independently verified.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russian’s Security Council, warned in response to Ukrainian officials’ statements, that if Ukraine struck a bridge linking Crimea and Russian, it would trigger devastating consequences for Ukrainian leaders.
“If that happens, the consequences will be obvious: They will momentarily face the Doomsday,” Medvedev said Sunday. “It would be very hard for them to hide.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged citizens not to fall for Russian attempts to scare and divide them with threats of awful missile attacks to come.
“It’s clear that no Russian missiles or artillery will be able to break our unity or lead us away from our path toward a democratic, independent Ukraine,” he said in his nightly video address Saturday. “And it is also clear that Ukrainian unity cannot be broken by lies or intimidation, fakes or conspiracy theories.”
With Post wires