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26 February 2014

Ukraine at a crossroads

Ukraine at a crossroads

After several months of increasingly violent turmoil and bloodshed in Kiev, Ukraine faces an uncertain future after the President, Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by parliament. 

Yanukovych remains on the run after fleeing the capital parliament voted to issue a warrant for his arrest. Police abandoned their posts on 22 February and stopped guarding government buildings and the president's residence, sparking a swift descent from power for Mr Yanukovych.

Since the government fell an interim president, Baptist pastor Oleksandr Turchynov, has been installed by parliament. Attempts to form a national unity government have been hampered by divisions among the opposition to the former preFighting between protesters and police had raged in Ukraine, amid burning tyres on frozen streets, a struggle was being played out for a future as either an ally of the Russian empire or a more open and free democracy.

The US and EU, who broadly support the overthrow of the former president, are negotiating financial assistance for the country which is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Bishop Anatoliy Kaluzhny, a Ukrainian Church leader who has been at the centre of action on more than one occasion, urged Christians across the world to continue to pray for his country. He called the European Evangelical Alliances and World Evangelical Alliance to encourage Christians everywhere to seek peace in the middle of the political turmoil.

This was his plea: "We believe that only our almighty God can help the people of the Ukraine to find peace, freedom, and welfare. It is high time for the Church of Jesus Christ to stand in the gap for the people of Ukraine. Do not be indifferent - stand in prayer with us!"

Ukranian evangelical leader, Dr Gregor Komendant, also called on all Christians for prayer and support: "The situation in Ukraine is extremely tense. Peace is fragile and the Church can and should play a reconciling role on behalf of all Christians of Ukraine. I am calling on the global Christian community for prayer and support at this critical time for our nation."

The government changes come hot on the heels of the agreement to hold an early election and to surrender some power in an urgent attempt to stop the severe political crisis descending into civil war. The agreement reached after hours of peace talks failed to passify protestors who insisted on the President's resignation.

The capital city is now recovering from the severe clashes between anti-government protesters and police which have reportedly left more than 77 people dead over the last fortnight.

The violence in Kiev's Independence Square all started in December when Ukraine's authorities made a decision to suspend the integration process into the European Union for the sake of close ties with Russia. This was accompanied by the government imposing draconian laws to repress opposition.

From the resource nationalism of threatening to "turn off the gas" in mid-winter, to the controversial imprisonment of opposition politicians, to attacks on freedom of the press - all of this took place against a backdrop of Russian intimidation and interference. A familiar approach for Vladimir Putin.

The Church in Ukraine has grown in recent years, and it has a stake in the outcome of this conflict. Not least because the gospel both proposes and sustains freedom. Indeed, it is historically synonymous with it. Ukrainian Christians met in January to pray for peace and to issue a statement.

The Alliance urges all Christians to pray for the Ukraine. Dr David Landrum, advocacy director of the UK Evangelical Alliance said: "The call to pray and act for Ukraine is urgent. Evangelical Christians need us to petition God for a lasting, peaceful, outcome, and petition our own government and our local MPs to press for a solution which will allow the freedoms that the country clearly wants. The situation also reminds us that all Christians everywhere have a responsibility to be involved in politics."

Archive article: Pray for Volatile Ukraine