Britain believes the situation in Ukraine may escalate ahead of a vital referendum in the Crimea, and has called nationals back to home shores.
This week, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) warned all British citizens in the Crimean peninsula to leave with immediate effect. A warning notice posted on the government website said that the FCO advises Britons ‘against all travel to Crimea’.
It said, ‘British nationals in Crimea should leave now. The FCO is not able to provide consular services to anyone choosing to remain in Crimea. Events in Ukraine are fast moving’.
Events are fast moving indeed, with it barely weeks since Independence Square erupted in violent, blazing clashes, resulting in the removal of the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
After Mr Yanukovych’s exile to Russia, pro-Russian protests stirred up a situation that has brought the country to the brink of war, with the Crimean government voting on a referendum to ‘join Russia now or later’, with a vote set for 16 March and Russian-backed troops holding the Ukrainian military hostage in their own bases across the Crimea.
The rest of the world has been quick to stand by Ukraine’s calls for protection of its sovereignty. Britain and the US have warned of extreme sanctions against Russia, such as asset freezes and visa bans.
Following the tough line from the UK and US, France and Germany have also threatened to impose sanctions on Russian businesses, while the European Union has said it will consider giving Ukraine a $700 million trade break.
According to a report in The Guardian, international crime-fighting organisation Interpol has said it was considering a request from the interim government in Ukraine to issue an arrest warrant for the exiled Mr Yanukovych.
Yet according to the BBC, many workers in the Eastern areas of Ukraine are worried they will lose their jobs because of the pro-Western revolution. According to one report from the BBC, the majority of Ukraine’s exports go to Russia, not to Europe, and workers interviewed said – in near-perfect English – that President Obama and the West should ‘keep their noses out’ and let Ukrainians work their own problems out.
While many pro-Russian citizens in the Crimea welcome any intervention by President Putin, others are seeking to escape from the situation. Already people in Crimea have been attempting to escape to central Ukraine ahead of the referendum – although the only flights out are now via Moscow.
According to another report by the BBC, even ethnic Russian families are seeking to remove themselves from Crimea because although they consider themselves Russian by ethnicity, they are Ukrainian by choice and do not want to be ruled by Moscow.
With friends and families in the country torn between two ideologies – their Russian ethnicity and their desire for a free Ukraine – living every day with fears of military action that could spark a war, and the prospect of economic turmoil for months ahead, all those in the country and the rest of the world are waiting to see what the outcome of the Crimean referendum brings.
This is why the World Evangelical Alliance and the Baptist and Evangelical churches in Ukraine itself have called on Christians across the world to pray hard and urgently for the country and its people.