Displaying items by tag: Ukraine
The government of the Luhansk People’s Republic, which declared itself independent from Ukraine in 2014, has added four Christian books to an official list of banned extremist materials. The books were seized from the Council of Baptist Churches in the city of Sverdlovsk and in July they were added to the list by the justice ministry ‘in order to secure the safety of the Republic’. There are 18 Christian works on the list of extremist materials, including a Russian version of the Gospel of John, a Billy Graham book, and a book by C H Spurgeon. Catholics have been denied a priest and the possibility to receive communion. An Orthodox Church of Ukraine chapel has been closed, and its bishop denied entry. Security forces also raid Protestant congregations and interrogate church leaders at police stations. We can ask God to soften the hearts of the authorities in Luhansk.
A Russian warship in the Black Sea fired warning shots and dropped bombs ahead of British destroyer, HMS Defender, to make it change course. Russia claimed the destroyer was in territorial waters they took from Crimea in 2014.It was the first time since the Cold War that Moscow acknowledged using live ammunition to deter a NATO warship, reflecting the growing risk of military incidents amid soaring tensions between Russia and the West. Russia’s claim on the Crimean peninsula is not recognised globally. Ukraine's foreign minister said Russia's aggressive and provocative actions in the Black and Azov seas and its occupation and militarisation of Crimea pose a lasting threat to Ukraine and its allies. A newspaper reporter on board the destroyer said, ‘The thud of cannon fire rings out on the port side as I crouch beside the bridge in my flame retardant gloves and balaclava. The deafening roar of supersonic aircraft filling my ears is unsettling.’
European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) is deeply concerned about the increase in tension between Ukraine and Russia over the Donbass region. Fear of invasion, a desire for respect, territorial justice, patriotism plus military presence and diplomatic pressure have created a volatile situation. Since 2014 thousands have died and half a million have claimed asylum abroad. Those remaining in Donbass are in a kind of no-man’s land. Faith minorities, including evangelical communities, are unable to register, and no faith activities are allowed. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian National Orthodox Church are in a constant fight for superiority. Will the people’s suffering worsen with the resumption of full scale war? EEA is calling Europe to pray for comfort and healing for the victims of the conflict, and for the restoration of safety and human rights to the people of Ukraine. May wise diplomacy bring about a commitment to peace and stability. For background see
A long-simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine is escalating into a flashpoint for superpower rivalry, as a Russian military build-up is met by the deployment of two American warships to the Black Sea. Putin has ordered the largest movement of troops, tanks and missiles along the Ukrainian border since the Crimea 2014 invasion. About 85,000 troops, tanks, missile trucks, armoured vehicles and long-range guns are being transported by train to Crimea and strategic locations near the disputed region. Amongst the armoury are anti-aircraft missile systems last used in 2014 to destroy a civilian Boeing 777 over Ukraine, killing 298 people. Many fear Moscow is on the point of a full-scale invasion, and see the Ukrainian authorities preparing for this possibility. Putin's deputy chief of staff said Ukraine faced 'disintegration' if it pushed Russia into war. Meanwhile Washington is flying reconnaissance planes to monitor Russian activity. See also
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, runs from 18 to 20 September. Hasidic Jews travel to Ukraine every Jewish New Year in their tens of thousands to worship at Rabbi Nahman's tomb. But Ukraine is keen to avoid a spike in coronavirus infections, and Kyiv has closed its borders to foreigners until late September. However, Ukraine has accused Belarus of encouraging more Jewish pilgrims to go to their shared border, as 2,000 (including children) are camped out at the border of the two countries, where charities and pilgrims are running out of food and medical supplies. ‘We are stuck here with no money, no roof, no food or drink’, said Haim Weitshandler. He urged the Israeli government to resolve what he called a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’. Ukraine said that Belarus was ‘exacerbating tensions’ by claiming that the pilgrims will be able to cross the border.
Forest fires have ravaged several villages in Luhansk in areas held by Russian-backed separatist forces. Water-bombing planes, the national armed forces and hundreds of firefighters are battling high winds and soaring temperatures that are spreading the fires. The governor of Luhansk region suspects the fires were started by arsonists. He hopes that separatists nearby are not attacked as they tackle the blazes but ‘cannot give any security guarantees’. Luhansk is currently divided between Ukrainian control and the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) amid an ongoing conflict in the east of the country. More than 13,000 people have been killed so far. Also, recent heavy flooding hit nearly 300 towns and villages in the west of the country. Climate change, illegal logging, and deforestation have all been blamed.
Ukraine’s police demanded that the Jewish community of Kolommya provide them with a list of all members of their community and of Jewish students, with addresses and phone numbers. The demand was made to the head of the community, Jacob Zalichker, who said he would only comply when presented with a court-ordered warrant for the information. Joel Lion, Israel’s ambassador, brought the document to the attention of Ukraine’s president and two different ministries. He said, ‘I received phone calls from the highest officials of Ukraine strongly condemning this act of anti-Semitism. We will work together to improve education for the police about anti-Semitism’. Ukraine’s first Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was elected last year.
Wildfires are just over a mile from the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant and a disposal site for radioactive waste. Over 300 firefighters are working to contain the blaze. A toxic cloud rises within sight of the carcass of Chernobyl’s Unit 4 nuclear reactor, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. Greenpeace said that the fires were larger than Ukraine’s official estimates and could pose a health risk, saying, ‘A fire approaching a nuclear or hazardous radiation facility is always a risk’. Flames could reach abandoned vehicles at the former plant, causing mighty explosions and spreading toxic fumes and unleashing radiation into the ground near the reactors. The fumes could sweep across vast swathes of Poland, Belarus, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova. All are vulnerable: see
On 8 December, a Ukrainian jet bound for Kiev crashed soon after taking off from Tehran. The majority of passengers were from Iran and Canada. Ukraine initially blamed engine failure, but later retracted the statement. President Zelensky warned against ‘speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe’ until official reports were ready. As a sign of the potential difficulties facing crash investigators, the head of Iran's civil aviation organisation was quoted as saying that the plane's black box would not be handed over either to Boeing or the Americans. An Iranian official blamed an engine fire, adding, ‘Had the accident happened due to a missile strike, the plane would have exploded in the air’.
13,000 people have died since fighting began between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian soldiers in 2014. On 10 December 2019 Russia and Ukraine made progress towards restoring peace in eastern Ukraine, at a Paris summit mediated by Germany and France. A joint communique stated, ‘The sides commit to a full and comprehensive implementation of a cease-fire, strengthened by the implementation of all necessary support measures, before the end of the year 2019’. A prisoner exchange was also agreed. Angela Merkel said the meeting gave renewed momentum to reviving a 2015 Minsk peace agreement that had stalled. Please pray that nothing will prevent the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the restoration of Kyiv's control over its borders, and wider autonomy plus local elections for the separatist regions. The last time the four national leaders gathered in this format was in 2016.