The Russian demon brought pain and destruction to Ukraine
“Lord, let it not be missiles.” That was my first thought when I woke up on February 24th at 5 am. “What were those sounds? Please Lord, let it be something else.”
I jumped out of bed, opened a window and listened. A few minutes of silence calmed me down a bit. Maybe I had just imagined it? I picked up my phone to read the messages.
My colleague Valeriy from Odessa wrote: “I hear the launch of missiles from the sea. I may be wrong, but that’s what it sounds like.”
One minute later, at 05:12, the silence was broken by a series of sounds that shook the building. I wrote him back. “I hear explosions here in Kyiv. I hope I am wrong, but my building is shaking.” A few more explosions, this time much louder. There was no longer any doubt Russia had begun a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Fear, confusion, pain and anger
I tried to call my wife, praying that she and the kids were fine. By God’s providence and mercy, just a week before, I had taken my family to Uzhgorod in the west of Ukraine because of the possibility of escalation. I did not know if her city was also under attack. Thankfully, she did not even know what was happening.
Fedir Minakov comes from Donetsk in the east of Ukraine and teaches Old Testament at the Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU) in Kyiv.
My biggest desire at that moment was to see my family’s faces and hug them once again. I could only pray that it would happen. Fear, confusion, pain, and anger invaded my heart, and I have fought against them ever since.
Should I try to find the closest bomb shelter, or is it better to stay in the building? I knew that it was improbable that any nearby bomb shelter was open and ready to accept people now. I knew that 95 per cent of the population of Kyiv had no idea what was going on and were not prepared. I wasn’t ready either. Is it even possible to prepare yourself for something like this? After another series of loud thumps, I decided to go to the closest metro station to shelter underground.
As I walked outside, I met another man who looked very confused. I asked him if he had a family and if he could give me a ride to the closest metro station. “What is going on?” he asked. I answered, “The Russians are shelling Kyiv.” He could not believe it; how could our “older brother” act so treacherously towards us? Dmytro (as I learned later) needed a few more minutes to process the information and figure out what to do next. Finally, we jumped in the car to find a better place to hide.
Is this the beginning of the war?
Even though US intelligence warned about the possibility of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, it still came as a surprise to many people in the world, including Russians and Ukrainians. No wonder Dmytro was not ready to hear my answer. How could I even be so sure?
This was not the first time I heard the “knocking” of russkiy mir on my door. Back in 2014, Putin’s Russia visited my hometown, Donetsk, bringing its bombs and bullets and shells. It forced me, my pregnant wife, and children to flee. I was familiar with its real face and recognised its “footsteps.”
(Russkiy mir is the name of an imperialistic ideology that supports expansionism based on common language, history and culture. The Russian government propagate this ideology to justify its pretensions toward neighbouring territories. A good introduction to the concept of russkiy mir can be found here.)
The war did not start on February 24th, 2022. It started eight years earlier when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied two eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. In the spring of 2014, Donetsk was flooded with foreigners who spoke with a distinctly Russian accent. These people organised protests against the Ukrainian government. The city was overwhelmed with waves of violence. They burned buildings and beat peaceful Ukrainian demonstrators. Not long after this, they brought in stockpiles of weapons, so the war came to Donetsk.
Special hate against Protestants
The Russians were filled with hatred, but they especially hated Protestant believers. Russkiy mir is proudly Russian Orthodox. It wears a cassock, not a collar. Protestant pastors were beaten in Donetsk and its regions; some were tortured to death.
While they were able, many Evangelical believers gathered for prayer meetings by the Kalmius river. While pro-Russian protestors attacked and threatened us, Evangelical Christians prayed for peace in Ukraine.
It seems to me that many Protestant believers in Russia can live “peacefully” only by ignoring the truth and accepting the horrible lies of their government. Does physical peace justify their silence when Russian bombs kill their brothers and sisters in Christ?
Over the last eight years, I often heard people talking about the “civil war” in the east of Ukraine. “It’s okay,” I thought to myself, “they were not there. They did not see it.” I tried to be polite and calm to avoid confrontation.
Perhaps I should have stood up for the truth more decisively. It was not a civil war! Russia first attacked Ukraine eight years ago and has just increased the scale and changed the invasion strategy. But how is it even possible that such diametrically opposed views on what is happening in Ukraine exist?
Adam and Eve believed the narrative
Back in the Garden of Eden, the serpent confronted Eve with an “alternative” view of reality. He told her that the forbidden fruit would bring knowledge and Godlikeness instead of death (Genesis 3:4-5). Adam and Eve believed the narrative of the serpent and not of God. As a result, there were devastating consequences that last to this very day and affect all of humanity. The Devil uses lies to destroy people (John 8:44). Today Putin and the Russian government are using lies to destroy Ukraine.
My point is that the lies from the Kremlin-controlled Russian media are a mighty weapon that causes destruction and costs thousands of lives. It is not just an alternative opinion that has every right to exist.
They blame us for destroying our homes
For the last weeks, many cities of Ukraine have been systematically bombarded with Russian shells, artillery, and cruise missiles. Most of these bombs are aimed at civilian infrastructure. Civilians, including women, children, and the elderly and disabled, are dying in their own houses and apartments. Russian soldiers shoot people without cause and discrimination.
At the same time, Russian TV channels parade government officials and journalists who cynically deny all these horrific war crimes and blame us, the Ukrainians, for the destruction of our own homes! This is strikingly consistent with what we know about the nature of the father of all lies.
Media are lying deliberately
I realise that this may sound dubious to some of us. After all, who would believe such a blatant lie? Back in 2014, at the beginning of the uproar in Donetsk, I witnessed how an angry crowd of Russians were trying to take peaceful Ukrainians off from a bus. They surrounded the bus and smashed all the windows. They almost managed to turn it onto its side, yelling “Rossiya” (Russia).
The next day, to my surprise, a journalist on a local pro-Russian news channel reported, “a crowd of angry Ukrainians attacked a bus full of peaceful protesters from Russia.” They showed a video that I immediately recognised as the incident I had witnessed the day before. It was a jaw-dropping moment for me. They twisted everything from top to bottom. This was my first encounter with Russian journalism.
That episode was, for me, just a single dose of the “poison” produced by the russkiy mir. But millions of people have been fed that poison every day for years. The sheer quantity of lies is terrifying.
To those who still listen to them, I urge you to forget the Russian TV channels and never return to them. These channels are deadly weapons that kill just as surely as Russian bombs. The source of all these lies is Putin and the government of the Russian Federation.
Dealing with grief
When I reached the “University” metro station in Kyiv on February 24th, I saw people sitting underground on top of bags and blankets. Women were crying. Their men were trying to calm them down. I saw the frightened eyes of many children who were hiding from the bombs. I tried to smile at them. I kept repeating, “Be strong and calm and encourage others.”
Later, I had to hide again in a bomb shelter in Ternopil on my way to join my family. I tried my best not to show weakness or tears. I tried to distract the children and women with light-hearted questions and stories so they wouldn’t be as afraid. Lord knows how hard it was for me. My heart was broken apart from pain and anger. I wanted so badly to cry, but there was no time for that.
I finally reached Svalyava on Sunday, February 27th and had a few minutes to myself. It was then that I allowed myself to cry. The pain went out with groans and weeping. A few moments later, I forced myself to stop crying; I had to stop.
Our church had arranged a Zoom meeting, and I wanted to encourage my church with words of comfort and point to Jesus and the Gospel. Also, I wanted to let my fellow believers know that it is okay to weep; it is okay to be afraid; to experience anger and pain; it is okay to feel helpless. It is all right to ask God difficult questions. He is not afraid of them.
During the Zoom meeting, we prayed and cried out to the Lord. We prayed for our brothers and sisters who were hiding from shelling, the Ukrainian army, the Ukrainian people, and our government. We prayed that God would open the eyes of those who are still blind, those who believe the lies of that ugly beast, russkiy mir, because that beast first invades people’s hearts and minds and then invades countries.
Russkiy mir came to destroy peace
Russkiy Mir means ‘Russian World.’ But “mir” also means “peace”. So, Russkiy mir came to destroy Ukrainian peace. That militarised Russian Orthodox lying demon brought only pain and destruction. Yet, we know that its end is inevitable, “fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (Revelation 18:2). Paradoxically, the Lamb that was slain is also the Lion who has conquered (Revelation 5:5-6). Christ’s death on the cross is at the same time his victory over death, evil and sin. Thus, we know that even through suffering and death, God’s children one day will partake in that glorious victory of our Lord over everyone who worships the beast (Revelation 20:10). Meanwhile, as the bombs fall and the lies continue, we pray for a just peace for Ukraine today.
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