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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

My Thoughts Concerning Ukraine

            Some of my friends have suggested that I produce an explanation, from my perspective, of what is happening in Ukraine. I am reticent to write about it because the situation is very complex and trying to sum it all up invariably leads to oversimplifications that may not be helpful. But noting that there is danger here, I will wade in and share my thoughts.

            I have been connected with Ukraine since I visited there in October of 1991. I have been on the ground in Ukraine as they moved from part of the USSR to an independent nation, as they held various elections, as their national currency changed (twice), and through various protests and “revolutions.” I have struggled alongside Ukrainians to live through “deficits,” corruption, and a myriad of social problems. I have spent endless hours discussing Ukrainian political life and problems with my friends there. I can’t count the hours I have spent in prayer for Ukraine. I love Ukraine deeply.

             The events of the recent protests, known as “EuroMaidan” (Euro for European, Maidan for Square as in Independence Square where the protest started in Kiev) began as a response to President Yanukovich’s refusal to sign an agreement with the European Union and change the policy of Ukraine from moving towards integration in the EU towards closer ties with Russia. As the protests grew the president resisted them with a show of force, hastily changed laws concerning protests, and finally violence and shooting by snipers. This led to a “compromise” of sorts that would have led to a return to the 2004 Ukrainian Constitution, early presidential elections and the admission to parliament of opposition leaders from EuroMaidan. It looked like a deal that all would accept and none would appreciate (the essence of compromise). The protestors did not like the agreement because it allowed Yanukovich to remain in power – something totally abhorrent to the protestors after he ordered the slaughter of his own people. Russia refused to sign – although they had a representative there – because they despise the opposition and are not willing to work with them as legitimate governmental representatives. The president did not like it because returning to the 2004 Constitution removed powers that he had consolidated due to his control of parliament.

            Regardless of how all the parties felt about the compromise it became a moot issue only hours later as President Yanukovich fled Ukraine and eventually ended up in Russia. The new parliament of Ukraine passed legislation with clear majorities, including the impeachment of Victor Yanukovich. Unfortunately they also passed a bill about suppression of the Russian language. This led to greater tension between the eastern Ukraine and western Ukraine. Seeking a pretext to protect their legitimate interests in the Crimea, Russia acted swiftly to secure the Crimean peninsula. Russia has a paid up lease for military bases at the Port of Sevastopol (pronounced Sev–a-stopol). It is still under debate if they are within the legal terms of their lease, or if their actions are well beyond those allowed by their lease. It is also still a live question as to whether Russia will scale back their aggression or increase it to include the eastern portion of Ukraine, or even the entire nation. As you know, this is a continuing story (I am writing on March 5, 2014). I am praying for peace.

            What about the people of Eastern Ukraine? How do they feel? This is a question without an easy answer for many people live there. Some of my friends support the aims of the EuroMaidan protests and see the current government as legitimate. Other friends wonder if this is not just more of the same corruption they have lived with all their lives. Still others think that siding with Russia might be the best path to peace and security. I can understand all three reactions.

            My friends and neighbors prefer peace to war. They would like to live in a world without governmental corruption. They want to know that their pensions are secure. They want better roads and other government provisions. They do not want higher taxes. They want a higher standard of living. They want their families to be secure and free. They do not want to live in fear. And they do not know which “side” can provide all these wants – the new Ukrainian government, Russia, the EU?  I have my own questions about these issues as well. I know that a political solution must be found or there will be more violence. I doubt that any political solution can make everyone happy.

            I am praying for a mighty redemptive act of God in Ukraine, resulting in peace and security in the entire region. I am sure that for a win-win solution to arise, all parties are going to have to “love their neighbors as themselves” as Jesus said. I invite you to pray as well.     


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