FIRM’s Slavic Family Support program works with families from across the former Soviet Union: Ukrainian, Moldovan, Belarussian and Russian. Over 7,000 Slavic community members live in Fresno, almost all of whom came as refugees due to religious persecution under Communist rule, and also from the post-Soviet societies that emerged after the end of the Cold War. The recent news of Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s decision to put troops in Crimea shocks and appalls the local refugee community we serve at FIRM. Unmarked troops have been seen across eastern Ukraine and the southern region of Crimea, where Ukrainians of diverse ethnic origins (Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar) live together. The former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country almost two weeks ago, after spending significant time in negotiations with an organized Ukrainian opposition who had been holding nonviolent protests for four months, as well as the European Union and Russia. Parliament has elected an interim leader since his disappearance. He recently has emerged in Russia.
Andrey Kovalenko, Slavic Family Support Director explains how the end of the Cold War changed very little for evangelical Christian families in former Soviet countries “The same people, such as the former Ukrainian president Yanukovych, stayed in power, even though the style of government changed. This meant that groups persecuted under Soviet rule still suffered from the same attitudes. The same corruption in the government existed. Now people are tired of that”. Putin’s decision to put Russian troops in Crimea and eastern Ukraine deeply worries community members, both ethnically Ukrainian and ethnically Russian. The Moldovan refugee community in Fresno also remembers when Russia did something similar to this twenty years ago in the Pridnestrian region. The Ukrainian protest movement pushed Yanukovych out of power, and does not want Putin occupying any territory of an independent nation.
We share the community’s request for prayers to stop the violence against Ukrainians, as well as a Russian military withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.
For more context from the perspective of Ukrainian students in Ukraine, we invite you to watch this YouTube video that has been widely shared by refugee community members in Fresno.