This letter is from Pastor San Sanych in Ukraine and written down by one of the people in our team. It was originally designed to share with fellow pastors who have been asking about the situation, but we hope it will help you understand what is going on better as well. Most of all, we hope it will help all of us be continually faithful in prayer for the people of Ukraine.
Thank you for your prayers and support. Please share these prayer needs with others.
Written February 20, 2014
Dear Fathers and Brothers!
I know that written bellow might be out of date, but I’ll send You anyhow. This letter is result of combine efforts of San Sanych Orlov-Koshchavka Sr. and my dear friend and sister miss Bethany Forster, who actually wrote it down from miscellaneous and random, emotional thoughts which I shared with her 02.20.2014. Bethany, I’ll owe You, since You did it even better than I expected.
First, what is going on in 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 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 towards 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 that these elections are only facades, it is impossible to prove anything with such a corrupt system and no resources. I have been a translator for these fake elections, but it is a dead end. We can do nothing. Ukrainian people do not want to live like this.
President Yanukovych can rob Ukraine and Ukrainian people and live like a sultan. He illegally privatized the extravagant Mezhyhirya and its hundreds of acres as his own private residence. Mezhyhiriya is over seven times as expensive as Camp David and the largest private residence of its type in Europe. 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 (where people make several times more income). How can people survive in these conditions?
— Euromaidan PR (@EuromaidanPR) February 22, 2014
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. Several hundred people responded by gathering in Kyiv’s Independence Square or “Maidan.” These peaceful protests lasted nine days, until on November 30th, special riot police came at night and severely beat unarmed and innocent protesters, most of which were only students. On December 1st, 500,000 Ukrainians responded by gathering in Maidan in Kyiv. Although the protesters have continually sought to negotiate and attempt ways for peaceful resolution with President Yanukovych and his government, the situation has continued to spiral deeper and deeper over the past 90 days.
Photo from http://rt.com/news/documentary-maidan-protesters-police-105/
After each flare-up of violence, President Yanukovych receives more words from EU and US leaders to reach a resolution and judge those responsible for hurting peaceful protesters. But no one responsible has been punished, and President Yanukovych continues to constantly break his word to the opposition leaders and protesters. The Ukrainian people now require his complete resignation which would lead to his just imprisonment. His only other option seems to rule his own people like a tyrant while actually becoming a vassal of Russian President Putin. President Putin has played his game well with continued pressure and the promised 15 billion dollar loan, while they continue to move towards a Eurasian trade Union. President Yanukovych is holding onto his office as long as possible, following the example of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus (20 years), President Putin of Russia (18 years), and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan (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.
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. People who simply long for a life of dignity. 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 citizens. 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 in 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 and in 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.
Photo from http://zyalt.livejournal.com/1003663.html
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 protesters. Many of these people have suffered for 90 days in the open air. 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. The Ukrainian people, however, are very open to talking about life and about the problems of suffering, sin, and forgiveness. It is very important to be there, but many of us cannot travel or need to be with our own people in our cities. We need more Christian leaders. All of the churches are deeply involved and there are many priests who have stayed on Maidan.
Some rights reserved by KERK IN NOOD – AED – KIRCHE IN NOT
Photo by Sergey Gapon/AFP/Getty Images
Some rights reserved by Christiaan Triebert
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 which can easily get under the skin. Over 1200 protesters have been wounded, but they are too afraid to go to hospitals, where people have disappeared, been tortured, and even killed.
Some rights reserved by snamess
The special riot police or “Berkut” used against the protesters originally began in the 90’s to protect the communist party. They continue to exist as a special force designed to protect a particular group. Many of the normal police are in obligatory service. In Kyiv, they are used in the front against protesters, even though many of them sympathize with the people and have family and fiances or wives at home. In other cities, many of them have refused to obey orders that involve crimes against the people and some have even joined the protests. Still, they are stuck in a corrupt justice system. An officer gathers money, gives it to his office, he shares and gives it to his, and so on. It is the same with the courts. Fake papers are made and sent with tax police, and citizens are kicked out of their jobs and deprived of their own businesses.
Some rights reserved by snamess
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. There are only two instances I can think of in history where this sort of force has been used. The SA in Nazi Germany and the Red Guard in China. These are hooligans hired to extend the troops and have even been used to begin violence on the side of the protesters by pretending they were part of the opposition. Some of these men are staying at Kyiv’s historic Orthodox Monastery, Perchersk Lavra, while they loot and destroy parts of Kyiv. Yesterday, February 19, these men shot a journalist through the chest and then beat him to death. President Yanukovych has opened a pandora’s box, and even the government cannot fully control these thugs and special forces.
Yesterday our parliament was supposed to make a vote on returning to a constitution that limits the president’s power, but they would not discuss it. Protesters began to march towards the parliament building but were meant by government forces. They placed the young obligatorily-serving policemen in the front, then the Berkut forces, and then the Titushki in the back throwing explosives and using firearms. Over 26 people died on Maidan. Today 02.21.2014. 13:30, 73 people are killed (62 protesters and 11 soldiers).
Now martial law has been illegally implemented in Kyiv. The roads are blocked and some internet usage is limited. Thousands of mobile phones have been canceled after receiving messages warning that the subscriber is known to be part of the protests. Everyone is forbidden to go to our capital city. The subways have been turned off and have only been used for government troop transport. To compare to other times of crisis, in Moscow during all of World War II, the subway system was only down for one day. Forcing them to shut down is unheard of and the first in Kyiv. 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. It is possible that martial law will be used across Ukraine, shutting down movement, information, phones, internet, transportation, and limiting all basic civil rights for the people.
Most of the people in Ukraine had very high expectations for the west. They see them as standing for freedom of speech, expression, gatherings and the dignity of life. For 90 days, the people of Ukraine watched the EU try to communicate with President Yanukovych in a language he doesn’t understand. He is an illiterate and blind criminal and does not respond to the west “expressing concern” or vaguely hinting at “consequences.” He has proved himself as a man of force and one that only understand power. If the EU wanted to make a difference, they must push in their negotiations until he understands. If no one is pushing and the Ukrainian people remain peaceful in their protests, he will act like he as he has always acted. No one does anything. No one is asking questions. Police who have murdered and beaten innocent citizens are still not prosecuted.
Respected professor and judge Volodymir Vasilenko (who worked at the Netherland court, which dealt with crime against humanity) declared weeks ago that the violence against Ukrainian people is a “crime against humanity.” But neither the EU or the US did anything about this except express concern. We don’t need just sanctions, we need these countries to apply their own laws. President Yanukovych and his government hold their money in western banks. If the EU and US would apply their laws against laundering and block this money, it would affect the politics in Ukraine. Shouldn’t someone ask how President Yanukovych’s son who is just a dentist became a billionaire in a year? Right now only President Putin and the Ukrainian oligarchs, Ahmetov and Firtash, have influence on President Yanukovych. If the EU and US put pressure on the rich people of Ukraine, they will be forced to make President Yanukovych listen to them or they will lose their businesses. We wouldn’t have any more of these days where people die in the streets.
The EU is scared to do this because if they block money from criminals they will start to lose all the money from Asian governments. EU economics will suffer. And EU doesn’t want to fight with President Putin. President Obama has done the same. While he embodies the “superpower” of America, he refuses to push President Yanukovych to deal with the protests.
Ukrainians are disappointed with so called Christian societies in the west. Some of us, obviously, didn’t believe that the west would still fight for these things, but it was disillusioning to many who are now desperate and angry. Of course, this is our business. We will use whatever we have to fix it.
The famous Russian war journalist, Arkadiy Babchenko, who has been everywhere in every war in his career said it is incomparable how the people in Maidan defend themselves without firearms. On February 18-19 the people in Maidan defended their already compromised barricades from attacks that came from the riot police every ten or fifteen minutes for twenty-six hours. Then President Yanukovych decided to make a temporary truce. But this morning (February 20th), they couldn’t wait. The people in Maidan were not ready to wait and be tricked and driven out by Special Forces again. But they were shot by snipers who even shot medical volunteers. Today a 21 year-old nurse was shot by a sniper in the neck. She was wearing white with an obvious red cross. Praise the Lord, she survived. A teacher from a Catholic University was also killed along with over 80 others in violence throughout Kyiv and into other areas of Ukraine. Thankfully, in my city and eight other areas, the government institutions are working with so-called peoples’ councils and our cities are mostly peaceful while changes are being made.
What we need.
An awakening of people’s consciences. Not for or against the EU or Russia, but for dignity and freedom. Men have returned to Maidan after intimidation and torture. One man was crucified to a door and his ears were cut off. Journalists and protesters have been beaten and more and more have died. Pray for the people and pray for us. In difficult times, people will talk to God. There are also many opportunities for us to talk about God with them. We need more workers and preachers. Many pastors, like me, cannot leave our churches and people to be in Maidan all the time. 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. Yesterday a friend of mine was wounded with shrapnel from a stun grenade. Another man, Volodymir good friend of mine was almost killed by the stun grenade, his foot was torn away. President Yanukovych’s government has all the power and the people have nothing. But people will not live like this anymore.
Thank You for Your support and prayers.
Grace to all of You, Yours in Christ,
San Sanych Orlov-Koshchavka, Sr., is Pastor of Rivne Biblical Church, CREC, in Rivne, Ukraine. He had help on this article from Bethany Forster.