Crisis in Ukraine – Blood in Independence Square
By Kristel Ortiz
Four months after beginning quietly in Maidan – Independence Square – in Kiev, Ukraine, antigovernment protests have escalated, thrusting the Ukraine and its 45 million citizens in the center of a wider strategic conflict between the West and Russia.
Sources report that early demonstrations began when former President Viktor Yanukovych declined to sign a document that would have put Ukraine on the path toward future membership in the European Union. Thousands of Ukrainians poured into central Kiev for peaceful protests on November 21, 2013, outraged that a long-standing desire for integration with Europe had been destroyed overnight. When Yanukovych responded heavy-handedly by calling out riot police, demonstrations evolved into a demand for an end to a corrupt government and changes to the Ukrainian Constitution to limit the powers of the presidency.
On January 28, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government resigned after protestors seized government buildings in several western Ukrainian cities. By that time protests had also spread into eastern, Russian-speaking Ukraine as well, and the first causalities of the conflict took place.
The standoff between authorities and antigovernment protestors grew increasingly violent February 18 after a parliament speaker rejected debate regarding the revision of the nation’s constitution. Kiev became engulfed in violence as Ukraine experienced its bloodiest week in many decades. Within 48 hours, 77 people were reported killed and nearly 600 wounded. Ukrainian Pentecostals were among the dead.
Since then the situation has been further complicated as Russia has increased its troop presence in the Crimean region of Ukraine, resulting in additional confusion, speculation and unrest.
Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the U.S. AG, has issued the following call to prayer and peace for Ukraine:
“We pray for the safety of our missionaries, ministers and churches in the wake of this season of unrest in Ukraine. We pray for God to restrain violence and protect all peoples living in Ukraine who are suffering uncertainty and fear. May the governing authorities involved seek to serve the best interest of all peoples in Ukraine, and may God's people continue to bring Him glory during this difficult hour.”
Ukrainian believers have responded to the violence by setting up tents in the Maidan area where people can receive food, medical assistance, prayer and Christian counseling. They also recently shared a gospel message from the square’s main stage.
Norm Edwards, Area Director of Eurasia Northwest, reports that in the short term, the Pentecostal Union will focus on those injured in the fighting, dispersing funds directly to those individuals to cover medical & other expenses. The German Pentecostal Churches and the Polish Pentecostal Union have already given generously to this effort.
Longer term, Mykhaylo Panochko, President of?All Ukraine Church Union of Christians?of Evangelical Faith Pentecostal, sees special opportunity to spread the gospel during these uncertain and difficult times. He would like to distribute Bibles to as many people as possible.
“Our prayers are with both the Ukrainian Christian believers as well as the nonbelievers to whom they are ministering the love and message of Christ,” says Omar Beiler, Eurasia regional director for AGWM. “We are deeply grateful for the U.S. churches that are enabling us to assist the Ukrainian fellowship in its efforts to minister to people who are suffering. Through these efforts, we believe God will open doors to allow a witness of Christ to go forth and touch the spiritually lost during this time of crisis.”
To assist Ukrainian churches in their relief efforts, click here.