Baptists concerned for Ukraine and Tymoshenko
K i e v – Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is living in difficult conditions behind bars. She shares a 140 square foot cell with three other women, completely cut off from the outside world. This is what representatives of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) were told during talks with leaders of the opposition party on October 19, in Kiev. In a much-disputed trial, Tymoshenko was found guilty of having agreed, as Prime Minister, in 2009, to a gas contract with Russia that was unfavorable for the Ukraine, costing the country about 137 million Euros. On those grounds, she was condemned to seven years in prison for abuse of office. The trial is internationally regarded as being politically motivated. The result is that Tymoshenko is now considered to be previously convicted, and is not allowed to be a candidate in the next elections. In informal talks during the convention of the Euro-Asian Federation, EBF president Hans Guderian (Berlin) and General Secretary of EBF Tony Peck (Bristol/Prague) met with the chairman of Timoshenko’s pro-West party, Oleksandr Turchynov, former Deputy Prime Minister, as well as with Member of Parliament, Pavlo Unguryan. Both politicians are also Baptists. They reported that the tension in the country has grown significantly in the last months as the government places increasing pressure on opposition leaders. Several have already been imprisoned; others have attempted to leave the country.
Both also reported that it is forbidden for them to meet with Tymoshenko in prison. Living conditions there are “indescribable”. The Baptists promised to seek improvements in the country. It is of great concern to them that the situation of human rights and religious freedom continues to deteriorate in the Ukraine. The EBF representatives are under the impression that the government is taking on more and more authoritarian traits, according to a statement from the EBF. Guderian and Peck are calling Baptists throughout the world to join the 130 000 Baptists in the Ukraine in praying for reconciliation and the establishment of a peaceful, democratic society.