Renewed fighting in Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine (MNN) — [EDITORS NOTE: This is a prayer alert from Slavic Gospel Association, updated with information from BBC News.]

Fighting between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian rebels has killed more than 5,000 people since April 2014. A diplomatic solution is wanted by the U.S., but eyes to Russian aggression cannot be ignored.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and sending regular troops across the border. Russia denies direct involvement and says Russian volunteers are fighting alongside the rebels.

The fiercest fighting has been near the town of Debaltseve, where rebels are trying to surround Ukrainian troops. The town is a crucial rail hub linking the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

With fighting intensifying in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, some 1.2 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since April 2014. Rebels seized a big swathe of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions following Russian’s annexation of Crimea.

This is the SGA prayer alert:

The local police chief was quoted as saying that Grad rockets hit a market in a residential eastern area. Meanwhile, Alexander Zakharchenko, the main rebel leader in eastern Ukraine, said an offensive against Mariupol had begun. He also said that he did not want truce talks with the central government in Kiev.

The militants have already have seized a large swath of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and more than a million people have been displaced.

Mariupol has a population of 500,000 and was the scene of very heavy fighting last August 2014. The BBC correspondent on the ground in Ukraine, David Stern, reports that the fighting is beginning to approach what was seen last summer.

It is tragic to see a renewal of violence and bloodshed. Please join the SGA family in intercession, asking the Lord to intervene and to bring peace. Pray as well for the missionary pastors and church teams distributing Bibles, evangelistic literature, food, clothing, and other humanitarian aid made possible through SGA’s Crisis Evangelism Fund.