A Heart Cry for Russia and Ukraine: A stunning documentary and still more stunning detective work

Feb 22, 2024 | Flashpoints, Ukraine, Watchmen for Russia, World Watch

As things looked in 2015

From a prayer post I published nearly ten years ago:

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But perhaps there is a key – that key is Russian national interest.”
(Winston Churchill, October 1938)

“The Ukraine crisis started with differences, which became a conflict, which became a war, and which now risks becoming total war.”
(President Hollande, France)

Churchill, who was undoubtedly one of the first international statesmen to recognise the post-war threat posed by the USSR. It was he who coined the memorable phrase ‘An iron curtain has descended across Europe,’ and who commented that, ‘An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last,” as he watched Joseph Stalin tightened his grip on eastern Europe.

In his zeal to restore Russia to prominence, President Putin is not seeking a return to the days of communistic collectivism but rather to exercise power and hegemony over his neighbours, in a pyramid of power with himself firmly at the top of it.

Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, declared that Russia was “practically at war with Europe.” The Polish Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski, likewise tweeted: “If it sounds like a war, if it kills like a war, it is a war.”

President Poroshenko of Ukraine said: “We are hoping that in the very next days, starting from Monday, we can demonstrate real progress in the peace negotiations. Why? Because we are too close to the border from where there would be no return to the peace plan. Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are on the territory of Ukraine. There is a very high risk, not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole peace and stability of Europe.”

Many are saying this is a last-ditch attempt to avert a major escalation of the war. Humanly speaking, or rather, in the light of what has happened at similar junctures in the past, the chances are not looking good. But let’s join together in praying for all that happens in the immediate days ahead.

The names of most of the leaders may be different, but we can see from this post how the situation has merely worsened in the ensuing nine years. there is nothing to indicate that this deterioration will not continue apace for the next nine. Pray for the West to wake up from the stupor of its reluctance to take this threat as seriously as it should do.

I watched the Oscar winning documentary Navalny the other evening.

Both The Times and The Guardian rate it as one of the most moving documentaries ever made. Daniel Roher’s film presents a powerful portrait of Alexei with his family in the aftermath of his poisoning by Novichok in 2020, and it includes a touching scene in which the director asks Navalny what his message would be to the Russian people should he be killed.

Roher was not wrong to ask the question. Like many, I was deeply upset to hear of the death of this man in an Arctic penal colony. Western authorities are unanimous in presuming him to have been assassinated at the behest of the Kremlin, particularly because he was seen in a video the previous day, apparently in good health.

A long-term political critic of Putin, Alexei Navalny was an incredibly brave anti-corruption campaigner, who appealed to people of all ages in his bid to stand as a presidential candidate. Many are left wondering now if there can ever be any hope of a democratic future for Russia. Pray for Alexei’s widow Yulia, who has stepped out of the shadows to take on his mantle, vowing to continue his work in fighting for its freedom.

Navalny is, of course, by no means the first of Putin’s opponents to die in suspicious circumstances. The documentary captures the magnificent work of independent investigative researchers Bellingcat in tracking down his poisoners. (It was Bellingcat, of course, who previously identified the Russian agents who came within an inch of murdering Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, also by means of the extremely strong nerve agent Novichok).

This time, they brilliantly uncovered a front-line chemicals weapons laboratory in Moscow that exists solely in order to poison those who oppose the Russian president. In the file, we see how Navalny managed to successfully dupe an agent on the phone into admitting all the details of the attempt on his life. It is the most stunning piece of ‘tracking down’ I have come across since reading about the cracking of the Enigma code.

May the Lord bless and protect Bellingcat in their vital work, and also Yulia Navalny and her team as they take up the challenge to represent the millions who are by no means enamoured of Putin. And may He raise up intercessors with similar skills and courage to bring about many breakthroughs in the heavenly places on behalf of the Russian nation.

What might the future hold for Russia?

I hardly dare say this, but with these considerations of the future of Russia and America, it feels as though we are inching our way towards the fulfilment of this Norwegian prophecy.

Putin has protested that he has no plans to expand the scope of his war with Ukraine. But this is the man who robustly denied that he ever had any intention of invading it in the first place. In reality, all the signs are that he is preparing to extend the armed conflict beyond the borders of Ukraine. He has placed the Russian economy on a war footing, and is seeking, for instance, to double its troops along the borders of Finland and the Baltic counties.

(Finland, be it said, has extremely well-armed defence forces, including the best artillery in Europe, and probably the best fighting forces in NATO. They also know how to make best use of their geographical terrain of lakes and forests. Denmark, meanwhile, is donating ALL its artillery shells to Ukraine, generously recognising that its need for them is greater than its own.)

A great many people are concerned by the fact that Putin is supported by a good number of influential figures in the West, not least Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump, who consistently refuses to denounce his deeds. I am horribly reminded of William Joyce, who broadcast endless pro-Nazi propaganda to the English-speaking world, and became known as Lord Haw-Haw.

This siding with a leader who tortures and kills his opponents as a matter of course arouses considerable disquiet, for once such sentiments have been articulated, they can acquire a life of their own, escalating and cascading with great speed, trapping people in their own rhetoric. It was particularly alarming to hear Trump claim that he would leave to their fate against Russia, NATO nations unable to meet their financial obligations. Putin knows very well that the West lacks the willpower to stand up against him.

Who knows but that it was Trump’s far from throwaway remark that emboldened Putin to call for Navalny’s death? He was certainly already feeling emboldened after he forced Ukrainian troops out of the shattered township of Avdiikva because they lacked the ammunition to withstand him. This is so grievous. As Reuters report, Ukraine’s situation is becoming ever more pitiable.

For Russia itself, the ongoing war with Ukraine is proving immensely costly. Up to a million people left the country in opposition to the war, or because they wanted to avoid being called up – although those without international passports were only able to go as far as countries such as Georgia and Kazakhstan. This latter has been particularly generous in hosting such vast numbers of unexpected incomers, but strains on housing and infrastructure, together with the few and far between opportunities for work, mean that many have made their way back to Russia.

There is no assurance that life will be any easier there, however. Quite apart from the colossal toll of casualties, there is talk of Putin launching a further massive draft (400,000 is the figure being bandied about) following the forthcoming election – though in reality he would be completely unable to pay for anything like so many. What he is doing is receiving vast quantities of drones and ballistic missiles from Iran. In some cities, very few men of military age remain at all. Ukraine is running out of troops to man its defences, but Putin is urging Russian families to produce more children so as to make up the missing numbers. You will remember that he also forcibly repatriated hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia for the same purpose.

Prayer

Lord, You hear, You see, You know. So many people have lost everything that was dear to them. Comfort widows and mothers and children, including the Navalny family.

Lord of Heaven’s Armies, guide Western defence chiefs and governments as they determine how to respond to Putin’s deliberate provocations and ramping up of threats and pressure. Give them wisdom and determination. And then grant that national leaders will have the courage to listen to their advice and act on it.

Father, You from whom every family in Heaven and on Earth derives its name, we pray for the Russian people and their life under this authoritarian leader. If things go according to his plan, then generations will grow up in the Russia he desires. But Your plans are greater, and we pray for the children who will live beyond his day, that their hearts may even now be being prepared to receive Your calling and Your word. May Russia bloom and bear much fruit for You.

You have seen it all before, Lord, as tyrants rise and have their day. Stretch out Your hand in all the many facets of what is going on now. Be merciful, so that the fury of the Northmen is not unleashed again upon the world, as our predecessors once prayed in the face of vicious Viking assaults, and the people of Kyiv prayed in the 13th century in the face of devasting Mongol raids. Hold the power of tyranny at bay, and reveal Yourself to many, for You are the Saviour of the world the Saviour of our souls.

In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

Photo by Anna Tsukanova on Unsplash

1 Comment

  1. Sally Hosken

    Thank you so much for helping us understand a little more of what is going and helping us to pray! The Lord’s will be done!

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