September 16, 2014


KIEV, Ukraine (BP) -- A Baptist preacher has been elected as Ukraine's interim president, prompting calls for Christians to pray for the beleaguered nation and its new leader.

New interim president Oleksandr Turchynov was the right-hand man of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister imprisoned by Viktor Yanukovych when Yanukovych became president in 2010. The former prime minister was released immediately following Yanukovych's removal from office Feb. 23, an ousting that came on the heels of a three-month-long protest movement in Kiev, the nation's capital.

Parliament voted Turchynov interim president until early elections take place in May.

"We need to pray for him," said Nik Ripken,* an expert on the persecuted church and 25-year veteran with the International Mission Board.

Baptists in Ukraine have a reputation, a moral base, that dates back to their witness to the government during the days of the Soviet Union, said Ripken, who visited with many of Ukraine's Baptist leaders in 1998 to hear and record the stories of their faith and persecution in that era.

"Now they [Baptists] are reaping the rewards of that witness and moral fiber," he said. "We must pray that they do not lose in power what they held so dear in opposition."

Tim Johnson,* an IMB worker in Kiev, said Turchynov is generally well liked by the public and has a reputation for being honest and trustworthy.

Turchynov has been in touch with the leaders of Ukraine's union of Baptist churches, and they are supportive of his appointment and committed to pray for him, Johnson said.

"My Ukrainian friends have expressed pride that a Baptist can hold such a role in a majority Orthodox country," Johnson said.

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