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» 02/28/2014
UKRAINE - RUSSIA
Armed pro-Russian gangs patrol Crimean airports. Appeal of Christian leaders from 13 countries of the former Soviet
The armed groups wear Russian uniforms and wave Russian flags. Tensions mount with Russian military exercises on the border with Ukraine and the protection given to former President Yanukovych. Kerry and Lavrov determined to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Christian leaders ask for the "fraternal dialogue" and "peace in Ukrainian society", welcoming all nationalities and all religions.

Kiev ( AsiaNews) - The two most important airports in the Crimea, Simferopol and Sevastopol are being patrolled by armed men. In Sevastopol men are wearing Russian uniforms and in Simferopol the gangs have hoisted Russian flags.

These latest developments further complicate the already delicate relationship between the new Ukrainian government and the mostly pro- European people of the west with the population of the more pro-Russian Crimea. Yesterday, after a new interim government was appointed in Kiev, Simferopol gunmen occupied the seat of the provincial parliament, hoisting the Russian flag. They also announced from parliament that a referendum on the autonomy of Crimea will be held on May 25.

People of Russian descent are the majority on the Crimean peninsula, which in 1954 was transferred from Russia to Ukraine.

However, it is also inhabited by the Tatar population - Muslim - who under Stalin were persecuted and deported. For this reason, the Tatars and Ukrainians loyal to Kiev, prefer closer ties to Europe and less Russian control.

In recent days, the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Ukraine's territorial integrity will be respected. But the reappearance of former President Viktor Yanukovych in Russia, his rejection of the new government and the Russian military exercises on the border with Ukraine have raised fears that a growing polarization could lead to a civil war or secession of the Crimea.

Meanwhile, the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic leaders from 13 former Soviet republics have launched an appeal for dialogue and peace "and mutual understanding among all citizens of the fraternal Ukraine, regardless of their nationality or religion".

Christian leaders from Azerbaijan , Armenia, Belarus , Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan , Latvia, Lithuania , Moldova , Russia, Tajikistan , Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Estonia are asking all the Ukrainian "people to exert every effort to avoid provocations and to preserve in their hearts true love for the neighbours, for their human dignity and religious beliefs. We express our sincere willingness to promote by prayer and deeds the fraternal dialogue and to contribute to the re-establishment of peace in the Ukrainian society".

The Christian leaders are worried that the pro- European and pro-Russian divisions will be passed on within the churches, bringing back old wounds of the past and new vendettas.  Their chief concern is mainly linked to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, judged too close to Vladimir Putin and proprietor of many churches, originally belonging to other denominations seized during the Stalinist regime.

At the peak of tensions, some groups tried to desecrate some Orthodox monasteries and take over churches. But the Ukrainian faithful and police stopped them.

 


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See also
03/04/2014 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
As Putin stops exercises on Ukraine border, Yanukovych asks him to invade the country
03/07/2014 UKRAINE - RUSSIA
Crimea: Church and pro-Ukraine Crimeans demonstrate for peace
03/21/2014 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
Crimea annexation frightens Patriarch of Moscow
by Vladimir Rozanskij
10/16/2014 UKRAINE - RUSSIA
Ultimatum to Crimea’s Muslims: Three months to hand over banned Islamic texts
03/18/2014 RUSSIA - UKRAINE
Putin's Russia recognizes the Crimea and its request for annexation

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pp. 176
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