Russia and Ukraine
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea - lending support to Pro Russian separatists and putting uniformed troops on the ground. Based on a highly disputed referendum, it then incorporated the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol (previously Ukrainian territory) as the 84th and 85th federal subjects of Russia.
This ignited the tensest standoff between Russia and the Nato countries of the West since the Cold War. Since that time the region has been deadlocked. Russia, through proxy militant groups, has been keeping up the pressure on the Eastern Ukrainian border and many skirmishes and battles have been fought between Ukraine and these Pro-Russian groups. Although it's estimated that over 10,000 people have lost their lives, the conflict in terms of media focus has mainly been at a low level - through humming along over the past few years.
Tanks digging in around the Ukrainian border - source DW.
Recent Russian Agression
But recently something dramatic has begone to happen. Russia has been reported to be massing troops near Ukraines eastern regions. In classic Russian style the Kremlin denies that the buildup poses a threat. This is all raising concerns that the two sides are about to go head to head in a military confrontation.
On Thursday 8th Newsweek ran a report entitled “Top Putin Official Warns of 'End of Ukraine' Should War Break Out Near Border with Russia”.
Also on Thursday, German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW) ran a report entitled “Is Russia about to launch a fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine?”. The report states:
“The United States and EU are watching reports of Russian troop movements on Ukraine's border with increasing concern. NATO has assured Kyiv that the alliance will continue to support the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity and monitor the situation closely. The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has also given Ukraine's government his assurances. Germany and France, which are mediating between Kyiv and Moscow in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine as part of the so-called Normandy Format, have made similar pledges. In a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, President Joe Biden recently affirmed the US's unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia's ongoing aggression in the Donbass and Crimea." But reports of Russian troop deployments to the regions of Bryansk, Voronezh and Rostov, as well as the annexed Crimean Peninsula, are circulating on social media. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has insisted that Russia, "moves its armed forces within its own territory at its own discretion," adding that this, "shouldn't worry anyone and does not pose a threat to anyone.”
On Friday 9th April 2021 the BBC ran a report with the headline: “Ukraine conflict: Moscow could 'defend' Russia-backed rebels”.
Back in December 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine published a document entitled “10 facts you should know about Russian military aggression against Ukraine”.
Fact 3 is particularly interesting:
“Military aggression is just one element of the Russian hybrid warfare against Ukraine. Other elements encompass: 1) propaganda based on lies and falsifications; 2) trade and economic pressure; 3) energy blockade; 4) terror and intimidation of Ukrainian citizens; 5) cyber attacks; 6) a strong denial of the very fact of war against Ukraine despite large scope of irrefutable evidence; 7) use of pro-Russian forces and satellite states in its own interests; 8) blaming the other side for its own crimes.”
A map of the hot-zone. Source: BBC
It seems then that the world has been warned about Russian tactics and the threat Russia poses.
But why is Russia turning up the heat now? One can only speculate but it does seem that timing is everything.
Consider these interesting facts:
- America has a new president. Putin and Biden have fallen out recently. Putin has invited Biden to a live debate. Is Putin testing the new leader of the USA? Apparently, America is, as CNN reported, “considering sending warships to Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions” (April 9, 2021).
- The biggest nations in the EU are in discussions with Russia about Russian Sputnik COVID-19 Vaccine as was reviewed in last weeks Bible In The News. It’s highly doubtful that countries such as Germany and France will take dramatic action against Russia if they are just about to purchase vaccinations from the Russians for their citizens.
Why does Russia want Ukraine?
Russia wants to control Ukraine for many obvious (but unstated) reasons. For example:
- Ukraine's territory is highly strategic – its coast gives Russian ships access to the Black Sea.
- It's a territory that used to be part of the Soviet Union and so Russia sees it as historically a territory it should control.
- Its position in regards Western European countries is essential for transit routes for Russia’s natural gas pipelines. If Russia lost complete control of the territory it would mean losing control of its gas exporting infrastructure.
- The Ukraine wields influence over the EU because of tis farming and agriculture. It is often referred to as “the breadbasket of Europe”. As Russia wants to influence the West if it controls this it is another tool of power it can wield.
- Eastern Ukraine is home to an estimated 7.5million ethnic Russians and so there are many connections to Russia via the people that live there.
- History. According to one write up by the “Institute for a Greater Europe” published Feb 18, 2019 and entitled “The Legacy of Kievan Rus’: The Memory War between Russia and Ukraine”, “Ukraine is of significant importance for Russia. On the one hand, its history, culture and religion are closer connected to Russia than any other former Soviet republic. On the other hand, Ukraine and its history is inseparable from Eastern Europe. Either way, both Ukraine and Russia claim to be the ancestor of Kievan Rus’. The former medieval East Slavic state contained parts of the territories of contemporary Russia, Ukraine and Belarus”
What is fascinating about this reference to the Kievian Rus is that it connects these events with Bible Prophecy.
The Bible and Ezekiel 38
In the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 we read of when the Jews have returned to their land after a long period of dispersion. This is speaking of our day for it was only in 1948 and the declaration of the Independence of Israel after World War 2 that it could be said that the Jews have been being regathered to their land.
In this prophecy, we read that after the Jews are regathered an invasion by a confederacy of nations takes place under the leadership of a mysterious character called “Gog”.
After the invasion takes place, God acts and by piecing together this prophecy with prophecies such as Joel 3, Zechariah 12-14 and Daniel 11 we realise that it is at this time Jesus Christ returns to save Gods people and establish God’s kingdom on the earth.
Youngs Literal Translation translates verse 2 of Ezekiel 38 as follows:
“Son of man, set thy face unto Gog, of the land of Magog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy concerning him”
So Gog is the prince (or leader) of a people called the Rosh. The prophecy was written around 600BC so who were these peoples who were called the Rosh at this time? If we can discover that we can discover the people who Gog will be leading.
Sadly recorded history does not go back to 600BC so we have to rely on sketchy sources. One such source is the Septuagint translation of the Bible which was apparently put together around 200BC - so only a few hundred years from the time the prophecy was given. In that translation from Hebrew to Greek the translators translated the Hebrew “Rosh” as a proper name “The Rus”.
It seems reasonable then to conclude that the Greeks knew of a northern people called the Rus. These peoples eventually came into history as the peoples of the Kievian-Rus, mentioned in the article, and from them came the peoples of Russia. Today, the word for Russia in Greek has the same characters as the “Rus” of the Bible.
So we conclude then that the people of “Rosh” of whom Gog is the leader are the “Rus” or the people of “Russia” who will come at the head of the confederacy of nations against Israel just before Christ returns.
We expect then to see a dominant Russia. Militarily strong. Not scared of throwing its weight around in the latter days.
The prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and other prophecies indicate that soon a uniting will occur between East and West because these territories are all together against God’s people of Israel when Jesus returns.
Watching the signs
So we watch Russia. We watch their power growing. We watch their aggression that will see the nations of Europe being brought to heel so that Russia becomes the leading force of the Kingdom of men in the latter days as predicted by Bible prophecy.
Who knows when and where the conflict in the Ukraine will end - but one thing is for sure. Russia is destined to take a leading role position in Geo-politics in the coming years and the Bible will soon be vindicated of its prophecies.
This has been Matt Davies joining you for another Bible in the News. Join us again next week God willing as we examine world events in the light of Bible prophecy.