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'Ukraine at critical turning point'

A Ukraine Baptist has urged prayer following another deadly wave of violence that left his crisis-hit country resembling a 'war zone'.

UkrainePavel Unguryan is the International Missions Department Director with the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, and was a member of Parliament between 2008 and 2012. In a letter to Baptist contacts around the world he said this week's violence was the worst since November when the protests started. 

At least 28 people have died in clashes between protestors and police in Independence Square in the capital Kiev, with hundreds more injured. Mr Unguryan said the Baptist headquartes in Kiev and other churches were being used as makeshift hospitals to tend to the injured, who are too scared to go the city's already overcrowded hospitals. 

With clashes spreading around the country and showing no signs of ending, Mr Unguryan said the country was at a 'critical' point.

'Ukraine is at the critical turning point and we realise that only God can prevent Ukraine from sinking in blood,' he wrote.

'We urge you to lift up prayers to the Lord in this crucial time for Ukraine’s future. May God help both parties to stop the escalation of violence and find a solution through negotiations and reconciliation.'

The protests in Ukraine started last November after President Viktor Yanukovich pulled out of signing a free trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia. The unrest turned violent in January when protestors in the capital Kiev clashed with riot police. Thousands stormed the regional administration headquarters in Rivne in western Ukraine.

It worsened again this week. On Tuesday night there were violent clashes between protestors and riot police, and despite reports of a truce, there was more bloodshed on Wednesday.

Of Tuesday, Mr Unguryan said, 'The angry protesters accusing the President of once again ignoring their demands started to force out the police units from the government block which turned into a clash. The demonstrators used stones and firebombs while the police responded with stun grenades.

'The huge plumes of smoke from burning tires, vehicles and tear gas engulfed the city and reminded of a war zone followed by explosions and shouts "Glory to Ukraine!".  Police were trying to extinguish the fire with two water cannons but the protesters responded by hurling petrol bombs and setting police trucks blocking their way on fire. At least 25 people were reported killed and hundreds injured on both sides as a result of severe clashes and street fighting around the parliament building.'

'The police announced over the loudspeakers that an "anti-terrorist" operation was underway and urged demonstrators to leave the square. After midnight people were arriving from all over Ukraine to defend the Maidan which has been the heart of the protests. People had been fighting back with rocks, bats and fire bombs for 10 hours and saved their island of freedom. The highways to Kiev have been blocked and the traffic in Kiev was paralysed.'

Regarding churches tending to the injured, Mr Unguryan said, 'The Christian doctors take turns and help those who need medical care. In fear for their lives the wounded and injured protesters refuse to admit themselves in the hospitals which already have no room and thus seek help in other places.

'The headquarters of the Baptist Union decided that in case of necessity and lack of room in the churches will also open up the doors for examination and treatment of patients. We see it as an opportunity to witness of our love to Jesus and our neighbour.'

Ukraine has one of the largest Baptist bodies in Europe. The All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, a member organisation of the European Baptist Federation and the Baptist World Alliance, has more than 121,000 members in more than 2,300 churches.

Baptist Times, 20/02/2014
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