by Al Benson Jr.
By now everyone has heard at least a little about what has been going on in the Ukraine, a former Soviet state that still has ties to Putin’s Russia.
There have been riots there, with the president Viktor Yanukovych claiming that he and his administration are the victims of “radicals.” It seems that most of the protesters have been doing just that—protesting what they feel is a corrupt government. A Reformed pastor in the Ukraine has been following the situation and he seems to have a lot more in the ball than the typical evangelical does. He presents a view of this situation you will not get from the “news” media. He has observed: “First, what is going on in the Ukraine is not for the European Union or against Russia. It is about the Ukrainian people’s dignity and destiny. They are tired of a corrupt government which acts like a tyrant, robbing and looting from its people, and they hate a judicial system where no one can find justice. They are exhausted from overtaxation and they want a chance to not just work hard, but to also have opportunities for good business and normal lives. The current protests began on November 21, not in loyalty to a certain political party or government, but in protest against President Viktor Yanukovych suddenly changing the course of the nation. Even though he had promised them for several years to pursue ties with the EU, President Yanukovych refused to sign the free trade deal and instead seemed to switch to his other option, the proposed Russian, Belarusian, Kazakhstan customs union. Many Ukrainians see association with the EU as moving toward a future of freedom of speech, equality and human rights, and an accountable democratic government. The proposed Eurasian Economic Union is none of these things. It is a hierarchically-run system without election, where many rulers hold complete power indefinitely. Since coming to power, President Yanukovych has illegally changed the constitution, taking Ukraine from a constitutional court to a presidential republic. Almost all power has been consolidated into his party including the appointment of parliament members and judges. Even though we know these elections are only facades, it is impossible to prove anything with such a corrupt system and no resources…President Yanukovych can rob Ukraine and Ukrainian people and live like a sultan…His family and party continue to work like a criminal network and mafia while laundering money through foreign banks. Average salaries in Ukraine continue to stay very small, while prices rise higher and higher beyond US or EU expenses. How can people survive in these conditions? President Yanukovych’s sudden movement away from the EU was another betrayal of the desires of his people and the future they want for their country.” I’m not really sure the EU would be all that great for these folks either. It might end up being the lesser of two evils.
Anyway, not overly happy with the direction their “El Presidente” was taking them in, several hundred people responded by protesting in Kiev’s Independence Square or the “Maidan.” These protests lasted nine days, but they were peaceful protests—at least they were peaceful until the riot police came in on November 30th and started severely beating unarmed protesters, many of which were only students. After this unwarranted assault by the riot police (sounds just like what happened during the textbook protest in West Virginia in the 1970s) on December 1st, 500,000 people responded by gathering in Independence Square. The protesters have continually tried to negotiate for a peaceful solution to the problems with Yanukovych’s regime, which has apparently been unresponsive and the situation has gotten worse over the past 90 days.
Each time violence started, Yanukovych received more communication from the EU and the US, exhorting a resolution and action against those responsible for hurting peaceful protesters. Unfortunately, that’s probably all the Ukrainian people will ever get from either the US or the EU—pious exhortations to their oppressors. And Yanukovych probably realized this, because no one responsible was ever punished. Yanukovych continued to break his word to opposition leaders and protesters, to the point where the Ukrainian people have desired, and required, his resignation from office, which would, hopefully, lead to his imprisonment. At this point, although he has not officially resigned and still claims to be president, the protest has grown to the point where he has fled the capital and the protesters seem to be in control and there is talk of forming a new government.
The Reformed pastor mentioned earlier noted that, earlier, Yanukovych’s only other option seemed to be “…to rule his own people like a tyrant while actually becoming a vassal of Russian President Putin…President Yanukovych is holding onto his office as long as possible, following the example of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarlus (20 years), President Putin of Russia (18 years), and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakstan (self-declared president for life). The people of Ukraine do not want to join these dictatorships—they want freedom of speech and respect for humanity, and they thought they could look for this in the ideals of the west.” While that is a noble sentiment on their part, in all honesty, those ideals no longer exist in the west. In fact, the previous ideals of the west have been so watered down that the west is becoming more and more reminiscent of the old Soviet Union—an agenda that has been at work in the west for well over half a century, with hardly anyone not part of the One World government cabal realizing it.
The pastor continued: “The government tries to call this a civil war, but it is not. It is Ukrainian citizens willing to take responsibility for their country and for their future…The division is not between eastern and western Ukraine. We have always dealt with these differences. Yes, there are people still under a Soviet mentality and these people are primarily in the east. They are used to relying on the government and being manipulated by propaganda from the president. If they have food and some shop money they support the government. But these are only a small group in Ukraine and they do not support the killing of innocent civilians. President Yanukovych paid people to stage a fake gathering in support of his government, but all of these people went home, while people risk everything to stay at Maidan. He cannot understand that the people stay, not because of money, but for freedom and the future of their country and their children. People in Kyiv (Kiev) and in the whole country have supported these protests sending representatives, money, food, and medicine. This is not a civil war. It is a war against the government which is trying to crush its own people. As Christians, we, of course, pray and support by bringing food and clothes. We send representatives to Maidan. One of our Evangelical leaders put a prayer tent in Maidan where volunteers bring money and food and make sandwiches for the protesters…I was there at the end of January while parliament was supposed to make important decisions. Unfortunately, our parliament is entirely under President Yanukovych’s power and nothing changes.” Hence the legitimate protests of the populace. People have a legitimate right and an obligation to protest when government goes beyond what its God-given functions are and usurps power that does not rightfully belong to it. The pastor stated: “We need more Christian leaders. All of the churches are deeply involved and there are many priests who have stayed on Maidan. The people have responded to repeated crackdowns on the protesters by building barricades and defending themselves with helmets, smoke from tires, and Molotov cocktails. In recent days they have used stones from the street against special forces officers with semi-automatics or sniper rifles. Protesters have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, and killed, some with metal bullets meant to stop armored cars. Even though police forces claim to use only rubber bullets and stun grenades, these bullets, which are designed to pierce 5 ml steel, have been found in bodies. The stun grenades which they use are very powerful and designed in Russia. They are meant to throw on the ground several meters away from anyone, but police have thrown them right into crowds and even into a young woman’s backpack. They explode with very hot, plastic shrapnel…Over 1200 protesters have been wounded, but they are too afraid to go to hospitals, where people have disappeared, been tortured, and even killed. The special riot police or ‘Berkut’ used against the protesters originally began in the 90s to protect the Communist Party…President Yanukovych is also using a third group referred to as ‘Titushki.’ These are hired thugs and released criminals protected and armed by the police…Special army paratrooper brigades are being called to Kyiv under the smokescreen of an ‘anti-terrorist’ operation. There is no terrorist danger in Ukraine. Propaganda and TV, especially in industrial and urban centers, is being used to create a national guard willing to kill all the people who stay in Maidan…We have sent one minister from the Alliance of Christian Reformed Churches of Ukraine to constantly be there. We have sent good young men. We need firearms to defend ourselves and we need human arms to help…” Sounds like some of the churches in the Ukraine are considerably more alert than many churches here.
As stated earlier, although not officially relinquishing power, Yanukovych has fled Kiev and no one knows where he now is. I think it behooves us to pray for these protesters and for the freedom they are trying so valiantly to bring to their country. I pray also that they exercise discernment in who they trust because many in the west will not do them anymore good than will Putin and the Russians.
Personally, I wouldn’t trust the European Union and its minions anymore than I would Putin and the Russians.
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