DONBAS, Ukraine (BP) – President Joe Biden announced Tuesday (Feb. 22) that the United States will impose sanctions against Russia, following the movement of Russian troops into eastern Ukraine Monday (Feb. 21).
Putin designated two pro-Russia regions in Ukraine as independent and began moving troops into those regions.
“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said from the White House Tuesday.
“Today, I am announcing the first sanctions to impose costs on Russia in response to their actions yesterday. These have been closely coordinated with our allies and partners who will continue to escalate sanctions on Russia.”
The U.S. response so far includes heavy sanctions on Russian banks, sanctions on Russian sovereign debt and sanctions on Russian leaders and their families.
Many believe Putin’s actions are only the beginning.
“There is no plausible legal or moral justification Vladimir Putin can offer for his open defiance of international law with this invasion of Ukraine,” said Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Everyone should feel a deep sense of urgency and indignation in light of the actions taken by the Russian president.”
In an email interview with Baptist Press, Daniel Johnson, founder of New Life Radio in Odessa, Ukraine, described the mood in Ukraine.
“Our station manager reports that there appears to be great fear in the city,” Johnson said. “Few people are on the streets, and likely people are getting ready to vacate. We are checking to see if the banks are giving out any money or dollars (people are withdrawing their dollars and banks may shut them off soon) as I am trying to get funds to the station. Ukrainians now are fearful after hearing Putin delegitimize their government.”
“Believers across the whole country are praying,” Pyzh said in written comments. “They do all the needed preparation to receive refugees from [the] eastern part of Ukraine. Many churches and organizations are preparing humanitarian aid and other forms of relief. People are in constant prayer, and they try to encourage each other. Overall people are scared; the level of anxiety is very high; many feel lost. Sadly, everyone realizes that Putin will not stop at Donbas and will do everything to take over the country.”
Pyzh said some areas of Ukraine can be hostile for Baptists, especially areas sympathetic to Russia and Putin, who Pyzh said is “strong on [Russian] Orthodox identity.”
“Baptists on the Ukrainian side are very active,” he said. “We have several students who are currently planning churches less than one mile away from a separation line. They are living under tremendous struggle. Yesterday I spoke to a couple of them and they’re considering moving their wives and young children away from that area because of heavy bombardment. … I’m sure that if things remain the way they are or if everything will intensify people will be forced to relocate. People in Western Ukraine already made all the needed preparations to receive our brothers and sisters. Our seminary will become a humanitarian and logistical hub for a lot of them. We started to work with several organizations to secure needed funds and resources for possible crisis because we believe things will intensify.”
All three men urged U.S. Christians to pray for the situation.