The BBC reports…
“Igor Druz is advisor to the rebels’ military commander Igor Strelkov, and a senior spokesman for the rebel-held territories of Donetsk region. He is in charge of the ideology of the eastern Ukrainian rebel movement. In an interview with the BBC in Donetsk he outlined his vision of the so-called ‘state of Novorossia’ they hope to build here.
He says he is a strong supporter of Orthodox Christian morality and family values, and opposed to homosexuality. He hopes to legalise [the] death penalty for the most serious crimes and he is sure that most rebels will support him in this initiative.”
The Mirror reports…
“Pro-Russian rebels blamed for shooting down the MH17 jet have been campaigning for special status for the eastern Ukraine region for almost a decade.
The GRU – the feared military intelligence wing of Russia’s special forces – is thought to be arming separatists who have steadily increased their military capability in recent months.
In the days before the passenger jet was gunned down rebels had used newly-acquired long range weapons to shoot two Ukrainian military planes out of the sky.
Thousands of Russian-speaking activists in the Donetsk Republic movement began campaigning to join a new ‘Russian empire’ in 2005.
In 2007 the organisation was banned by the Ukrainian government.
Even the country’s previous pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych had rejected its demands to become part of a wider Russian federation before he was ousted amid protests in Febuary.
Militants reacted by declaring the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ in April after seizing the regional government building in the city.
Their demands a referendum on secession from Ukraine were rejected by the government in Kiev which then classified it as a terrorist organisation in May.
The separatists’ military leader is Igor Girkin, who also goes by the name of Strelkov – meaning “shooter”. Sporting a clipped moustache he is thought to be a Russian spy and a member of the GRU.
It is his boasts about shooting down a plane on the Russian version of Facebook that has attracted the finger of blame.
Analysts have claimed the FSB, the foreign wing of Russia’s KGB, has been buying up agents in eastern Ukraine for years before the civil war broke out.
The self-declared state has adopted a ‘constitution’ which states that the Russian Orthodox Church is the official religion. Separatists have labelled the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism and Protestants denominations as ‘anti-Russian’.”
“They are tired after more than three days with almost no sleep but their eyes shine with battle fervor as they man the rebels’ frontline barricade in Donetsk, the eastern Ukrainian city where dozens were killed in a battle over the airport this week.”
We are Russians, and we will take revenge for everything the Ukrainians have done to us. We will be here until the very end,” said a 29-year-old native of the Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol, who only identified himself by the nickname Chrome.
Chrome and his 24 comrades on the barricade are part of a new pro-Moscow unit formed three months ago. Calling itself the “Russian Orthodox Army”, it has been engaged in the heaviest fighting against Ukraine’s army in the Donetsk region this month.
It is just one of several armed rebel groups fighting in Ukraine’s tumultuous east, with blurred command and coordination lines – and varying motivations and allegiances.
Chrome previously worked on building sites and was an amateur diver and underwater hunter – two blue dolphins tattooed on the left side of his neck a reminder of that time.
Around his waist is wrapped a length of cloth on which prayers are written. Some of his comrades carry little Orthodox icons in the pockets of their mis-matched camouflage fatigues.
“There are many lines in the Bible. The New Testament speaks of turning the other cheek, but we will take it no more. We have the Old Testament here – an eye for an eye,” said Sergei, a thin, black-haired sailor from Mariupol, who commands the last rebel barricade on the road from Donetsk to the airport.
But this is no religious crusade; theirs is primarily a patriotic zeal that cleaves to Russia, even though most were born in the Donetsk region….”
CBN News reports…
“As tensions between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists escalate in eastern Ukraine, Christians are increasingly becoming targets of persecution in areas controlled by insurgents.
Acts of aggression include kidnappings, beatings, and killings, including the murder of four ministers several weeks ago.
According to Sergey Rakhuba, president of Russian Ministries, the rebels view evangelicals as enemies.
“In one of the towns, they even raised the Orthodox flag and said they would fight any heretic, any Protestant, anyone who represents any Western immoral values,” he told Mission News Now.
Despite the violence, many pastors have chosen to remain in the war-torn region.
Rakhuba said one pastor told him, “‘I’m staying here because I cannot abandon my flock. I cannot abandon those who are trapped here.'”
“There are hundreds of pastors that are doing the same thing,” Rakhuba said.
***How much of the Christian persecution in east Ukraine is linked to pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church? Sergey Rakhuba addressed that issue as well as how his ministry is reaching out to the people of east Ukraine. Click play for his comments.”
World Religion News reports…
“The Russian occupation of Ukraine has been under way for almost half a year. With the battle raging between the two nations, both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches have begun a war of words to express their desires for the future. While tempers between the two churches have remained moderate since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church broke off from Moscow’s leadership in 1991, they have now reached a boiling point, with each taking a more active role in the war as the occupation wears on.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is suffering from internal and external pressure. The separatists who wish to see Ukraine returned to Russian control have caused a divide in the church, using their faith to bolster their political beliefs. They have styled themselves as the “Russian Orthodox Army,” and they have interesting plans for the nation. By uniting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and State, the separatists believe that they will help create a “Third Rome” between Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church that has remained faithful to their state as an individual entity is using their rich history to justify their existence, if not supremacy, to Russia. After all, the Kievan Rus, the first federation in this area, was founded a full 150 years before Moscow was settled. Being that many of the Ukrainians regard the church as the sole institution that is trustworthy, much more than their government, it seems that the Russian Orthodox Church will need to defeat the church before they can fight the armies.
While the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is experiencing a high degree of in-fighting, the Russian Orthodox Church is waiting for its opportunity to welcome the separatists back into the fold. For many Russians, the war is as much about returning the citizens of Ukraine to the proper faith as it is an imperialistic land grab.
There has been an increase in pro-religious sentiment in Russia during the last decade. However, this has come at the cost of criticism of Russian leadership being equated with attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church. This has manifested in assaults and arrests of individuals who espouse beliefs which conflict with the increasingly conservative church. As the lines between church and state continue to blur together in Russia, it appears that the outcome in Ukraine will become more dependent upon religion than ever before.”