Ukraine (MNN) — Since Ukraine elected its new president, Victor Yanukovych, one of the government's main goals has been to restore and strengthen relations with Russia, overturning much of the work done by the previous administration.
On April 26, both governments arrived at an energy cooperation, which lowers Ukraine's fuel costs by almost thirty percent in exchange for the Russian Navy having a long-term presence in the Crimean Peninsula bordering the Black Sea, according to Sergey Rakhuba of Russian Ministries. This long-term presence allows Russian Navy to occupy the area until 2042, 25 years longer than the original agreement.
Yet, Ukraine wants to maintain its status as a neutral country, said Rakhuba, without allowing any other country to inhabit Ukraine.
Such agreements have torn the country in two, with the younger generation siding against renewed relations and the older generation alright with returning to the way things once were. Rakhuba said, "Half of the Ukrainian people think it's outrageous because they've been striving for independence. They were enjoying independence."
However, many fear closer ties with Russia would slowly restrict this freedom they have worked so hard to gain.
Additionally, this could affect religious freedom. Currently, "Ukraine is basically an unlimited opportunity for mission work for all churches … they're all kind of equal in society. Nobody's giving any predominant role to any of those groups," Rakhuba said.
With Russian influences, this could swing more in favor of the Orthodox Church and begin to put restrictions on the Evangelical Church.
But if Christians can step up to the increased pressure, this time, when the nation is in an upheaval, can also be a great opportunity.
"I'd like to challenge all the church leaders to be those peacemakers and to help churches and communities to reconcile," Rakhuba said. As they bring calmness to the situation, people may be attracted to what Christ has to offer and question why Christians responded as they did.
Pray for Ukrainian Christians to do just that. Also, during this time of turmoil, the Ukrainian economy is not entirely stable, and your help is needed for Russian Ministries to continue their work.