Russia-Ukraine tension sparks call to prayer

A buildup of Russian troops on the Russia-Ukraine border has drawn all eyes to the two nations and a call for prayer from a former International Mission Board missionary in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine Wednesday (Jan. 19) and plans to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov Friday (Jan. 21) in Geneva, The Associated Press reported.

Russia is seeking a commitment from the U.S. to preclude Ukraine from joining NATO. Meanwhile, it has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops near the Ukraine border.

Buck Burch, a former International Mission Board missionary in Russia now serving as a missions strategist at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, said the tensions should be a matter of prayer for Southern Baptists.

“The thing to remember in all of this is that the Baptist churches in Russia and Ukraine are very closely related, with family members on both sides of the border,” Burch told The Christian Index, Georgia Baptist news journal. “That which we see unfolding in front of us has affected relationships on both sides within the evangelical family. We should pray for our brothers and sisters that they would not be divided even as the political lines are drawn.”

Southern Baptist missionaries serve in both countries.

President Joe Biden addressed the issue in a lengthy press conference Wednesday, saying Russia would be held accountable for an invasion.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” Biden said at the press conference.

“But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further … invade Ukraine, and that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe costs and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy.”

Biden received criticism after the press conference for use of the phrase “minor incursion,” with many saying his comments gave Russian President Vladmir Putin too much leeway. The White House issued a clarifying statement later Wednesday.

“President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in the statement. “President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response.”

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