Alarm grows at Ukraine violence

(File photo courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons/Christiaan Triebert)

(File photo courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons/Christiaan Triebert)

Ukraine (MNN) — Protests have erupted into deadly chaos once more in Ukraine. This time, clashes left 25 dead and over 240 injured in Kiev’s Independence Square.

Issuing a statement from the Foreign Ministry yesterday, the situation was described as an attempted coup. Using the phrase “brown revolution” (referring to the 1933 Nazi rise to power in Germany), the ministry said Russia would use “all our influence to restore peace and calm.”

Joel Griffith, a spokesman for  the Slavic Gospel Association, calls that response troubling. “Russia has always viewed Ukraine as very much paramount in its overall strategic, national interests. So they’re going to take a deep concern or regard in what goes on over there,  and the possibility of intervention by Russia is very real.”

The violence sparked an emergency meeting of the 28-nation European Union and led to a Kremlin statement blaming Europe and the West. A chorus from Europe’s leaders is growing, calling for a tough stance on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and blaming Russia for exacerbating the violence.

At the same time, the EU stated they would respond to any deterioration on the ground in Ukraine. That might not be as ominous as it sounds. Griffith explains what that could mean. “I would be surprised if any military action took place with the European Union. That just doesn’t seem to be something that easily gels together there, although it’s certainly possible that you could see sanctions imposed.”

(File photo courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons/Christaan Triebert)

(File photo courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons/
Christaan Triebert)

What stirred up all the trouble in the first place? Thousands of demonstrators have packed Independence Square since November 2013. Griffith explains, “It began when the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, decided not to sign an agreement with the European Union. Western Ukraine is traditionally more aligned with Europe and the European point of view, while the eastern side of Ukraine is culturally and more politically aligned with Russia.”

The Prime Minister and his cabinet resigned, and Parliament members repealed the hastily-passed anti-protest law in an effort to appease protestors. Griffith says that also meant “things just kind of morphed. It went beyond that, and it became anti-government in general. Then some of the more extreme elements have been getting involved, fanning the flames–including some almost neo-Nazi element.” From there, things got really ugly, really fast.

(File photo courtesy Flickr/Creative Commons/Christiaan Triebert)

(File photo courtesy Flickr/
Creative Commons/Christiaan Triebert)

Then, a month of uneasy calm exploded overnight as tensions boiled over. Riot police stormed the Square late Tuesday to break up the anti-government protests. “A lot of people were unable to get to their homes. Children were unable to get home from school. Some staff (Lydia Omelchenko, wife of SGA’s  chief Russian-language editor) had to stay overnight in the Baptist Union headquarters in Kiev simply because the police and the military had the roads blocked.” Public transportation and the Metro system are not running. Sergei describes the situation as very frightening.

SGA also heard from Sergei Gladishko, director of the Kiev Regional Ministry Center. He is asking for urgent prayer: for the staff, their families, and for their country as a whole. “I think our big concern, more than anything else right now, is just that peace and calm would be restored. I know that’s how the evangelical churches we serve are praying.”

Griffith adds that the Church is caught in the middle of the upheaval, even though they’re not taking political sides. “They want freedom to worship. They want the freedom to share the Gospel. They want to see peace, love, and reconciliation in the name of Jesus come to their land.”

In light of the tensions threatening to tear Ukraine apart, Griffith acknowledges that the solution they’re posing could sound overly-simplistic. “The Gospel really is the ultimate solution to these kinds of conflicts. The peace of Christ is really the only thing that can bring true peace, and that’s what the churches really want to communicate, especially in times like this.”

Please pray for the safety of these believers in Kiev, and that the violence does not continue to escalate. Pray that a peaceful solution will be found quickly to this serious, dangerous conflict.