Ukraine (MNN) — Russia has begun moving troops into Eastern Ukraine. This comes after Vladimir Putin officially recognized two breakaway states in the region controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The U.S. responded to the move with sanctions, and the EU has proposed sanctions of its own.
Eric Mock with the Slavic Gospel Association says in 2014, Ukraine ousted a corrupt president and struggled for a level of independence. “The Eastern republics of Lugansk and Donetsk, termed the Donbas region, were home to a majority Russian population versus being Ukrainian by ethnicity. That region responded to the push for Ukrainian independence in a very negative way and started leaning towards Russia.”
Increasing artillery fire
Since 2014, the Ukrainian military has exchanged artillery fire with the rebels. Infrastructure in the region has suffered heavy damage. SGA supports around 40 churches on the Russian and Ukrainian sides of the contested border.
Over the past few days, the violence has increased. Mock says, “We hear from the churches on both sides that there’s been an increased amount of shelling and gunfire. The churches we work with have been providing aid on both sides of this battle line. They’re seeing villages being shelled almost indiscriminately.”
Should the fighting escalate, Mock anticipates a wave of people fleeing their homes. “They will be known as internally displaced people. A lot of those people will be moving with literally just the clothes on their back. Could be hundreds of thousands.”
Mock says they could fan out through Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. “They will be looking for a place to stay and warm clothing. They’ll be looking for basic medicines and answers to some of the deepest searching questions.”
SGA has been bringing humanitarian aid into this region since 2014. Mock says local churches have seen the Gospel go forward powerfully. Pray this conflict would have a peaceful resolution.
The header photo shows a ruined shop from the Lugansk People’s Republic, one of the breakaway states recently recognized by Russia. (Photo courtesy of Akaasik, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)