In a fast-moving situation at the weekend, Oleksandr Turchynov was selected by Ukraine’s parliament to succeed ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Turchynov had already been appointed speaker and deputy prime minister and will remain as interim president until new elections are held later this year.
Turchynov is a Baptist elder at the Word of Life Centre in Kiev, a member of the Baptist Union of Ukraine – the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists.
A BBC profile said he was considered the right-hand man of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister imprisoned by Yanukovych but then dramatically released at the weekend.
In his first address, Turchynov explained that elections would take place in May, whereupon he will immediately resign.
The first task, he said, was to “stop the confrontation, to regain control … to ensure peace and tranquility, to prevent new victims, local rivalries and lynchings.”
At least 88 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and government forces over the last three months, the worst violence the country has witnessed since independence in 1991.
Pavel Unguryan, the international missions department director with the Baptist Union of Ukraine and a member of parliament, said that “joy and sadness overfills our hearts as we celebrate the news of birth of a new Ukraine and grieve for the young men, students and husbands who died for this to happen.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people burst out in ovation and cheers as they were listening to the reports about the progress from the Maydan’s stage,” he continued, though unfortunately many people now have “much anger and hatred for opponents.”
“Many are determined just to revenge, burn and bring about injuries.” The country needs to turn to Christ, he said.
“What Ukraine needs is not just a change of people in authority but a change of the system and the relationship of the authorities to ordinary citizens. Ukraine needs love, mercy and forgiveness. Ukraine needs Christ!”
Unguryan also praised the Christian community, which had been the light and the salt for both parties during the days of protests and confrontations.
“The doctors, nurses, cooks, students and other Christian groups have been helping whenever there was a need,” Unguryan said. “This situation caused the churches and even denominations get united in prayers and fasting for the peace and God’s intervention. People started crying out to God and even the TV media spoke about the role of the church and quoted Scriptures.”
A group from Hungarian Baptist Aid has also arrived in Ukraine to help the recovery.
David Hardage, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, encouraged his Twitter followers to join him in praying for Ukraine’s president Turchynov, a fellow Baptist.
Robert Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, later tweeted that Baptists needed to pray both for Turchinov and Ukrainian Jewish leadership, and noted Turchinov’s assurance that the government would guard the Jewish community.
Turchinov told Ukrainian chief rabbi Dov Bleich that the government would “make every effort to guard the Jewish community.”
Anti-Semitic actions have been reported in Ukraine, where “ultranationalist neo-Nazi parties” are active.
A version of this article by Paul Hobson first appeared in The Baptist Times of Great Britain and is used with permission. EthicsDaily.com staff contributed to this report.
Paul Hobson is editor of The Baptist Times of Great Britain, the online newspaper of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.