This week in the news we have seen a clash between Russian and Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea just off Crimea, which has been occupied since 2014 by Russia. The Russian ships intercepted, rammed, fired on and then finally, using its special forces, stormed and captured the Ukrainian ships and sailors.
This all comes in the context of the wider conflict in Ukraine where since 2014 Russian backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian government and have taken over parts of eastern Ukraine. Russia also annexed the area of Crimea leading to a worsening of Russia’s relationship with western governments.
Although little has been seen in the general media regarding the war in Ukraine, battles in eastern Ukraine still continue although the Ukrainian military had managed to halt the advance of the pro-Russian separatist forces.
Western governments have been highly critical of Russia’s involvement in the region, leading to what many have referred to as a new cold war. Earlier this year US President Donald Trump authorised an additional $47m in arm sales to Ukraine, while It is widely recognised that the separatists are armed by Russia. Speaking about Ukraine on the phone with Putin, Trump was reported to have characteristically told the Russian President “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win.”.
With the help of the west the Ukrainians have stabilised the situation in the east preventing any further territory being lost to the separatists this year.
The latest flare up began when a Ukrainian fleet of ships, passing through the Kerch Straits into the Azov Sea, was intercepted by the Russian Navy. The ships were rammed and then taken over by Russian special forces, seizing the three ships and taking the Ukrainian sailors prisoner. These prisoners are reported to have been taken to a detention centre in Moscow apparently awaiting a criminal trial.
By preventing the Ukrainians from passing through the Kerch Straits the Russians cut off eastern Ukrainian ports such as Mariupol.
The Ukrainian government has responded strongly, by banning all military aged males from entering the country, fearing a repeat of the 2014 capture of Crimea, when undercover Russian soldiers captured the area leading to an eventual annex of the region. The Ukrainian government has, for the first time, declared martial law in all areas bordering Russia in preparation for an invasion. The Ukrainian President now claims that the Russian Army, especially tanks, are massing on his eastern border.
President Poroshenko went on to explain his fears and showed aerial photographs of the Russian forces allegedly massing off his border. He also seemed clear that Russia’s ambitions in Europe were not limited to Ukraine.
“Nobody knows where tomorrow Putin appears, is it possible that Putin will make a decision to attack Baltic and Nordic countries – there is no red line for Putin”
“This is the tank base just 18km from our border” said Mr Poroshenko pointing to one photograph “this is what was happening September, this is what was happening in beginning of October and this is what is happening now. This is just 18km from my border”
When explaining why he thought the Russians were behaving in this way he said that it was because Ukraine was not willing to be a “colony of the Russian Empire”.
Although it seems very unlikely that Ukraine’s fears of an imminent, full scale invasion are anything more than an attempt to attract attention and sympathy from the world, his use of language is of particular interest to Bible believers.
In the preface of Elpis Israel John Thomas writes:
“When Russia makes its grand move for the building-up of its Image-empire, then let then reader know that the end of all things, as present constituted, is at hand. The long-expected, but stealthy advent of the King of Israel, will be on the eve of becoming a fact; and salvation will be to those who not only looked for it, but have trimmed their lamps by believing the gospel of the kingdom unto the obedience of faith and the perfection thereof in “fruits meet for repentance”.
When we come to Ezekiel 38 we see that Magog is part of the confederacy of nations under Russia’s control. Magog can be shown to relate to eastern Europe, which of course includes Ukraine. This shows that Ukraine’s fight to keep independent from this new Russian Empire is futile, we can see clearly from scripture that their eventual defeat is inevitable.
This military build-up is probably intended to intimidate the Ukrainians rather than to invade their country. It is more likely that Putin will continue using the subtle tactics which he used to take Crimea rather than risk further international crises.
So, as we see Russia strengthening her position in the region it is important that we are prepared for the long-expected return of the Lord Jesus which we know is at hand. We can see that it is reserved for those who have believed in the gospel and have shown the fruits of repentance in their lives.
This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this week’s Bible in the News.