Sunday, November 9, 2014

LDS Members Caught Up In The Struggle Between The Ukraine And The Secessionist Donetsk Republic

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found themselves caught up in the strife between pro-government forces and secessionists in the Ukraine. In fact, pro-Kiev and anti-Kiev Mormons find themselves at odds., formerly known as Russia Today, has published the story of one LDS member who's serving in the Donbass militia in the Donetsk area, where the people are more sympathetic towards Russia. The Donbass militia has approximately 16,000 members, 70 percent who are natives of Donbass, 20 percent are from the rest of Ukraine including its western regions, and 10 percent who are volunteers from Russia.

Summary: The man, identified only as Sergey, is married with three children, although he sent his family to the Crimea once fighting broke out in the Donbass. He is identified as an observant Mormon. Sergey has been fighting since May 21st, 2014 and participated in the bloodiest battle near Semyonovka, which is not far from Slavyansk. He was one of the first soldiers to receive a medal, and currently commands a military unit. Sergey states that three other Mormons also serve in the militia, and that 80 percent of the estimated 100 Mormons in the Donbass support the Donetsk Republic.

Sergey adds that before the war, there were three LDS meeting houses in Donetsk, one in Makeyevka and one in Gorlovka, but now only 30 LDS members remain in Donetsk, meeting in private homes. All four meeting houses were taken over by the militia (a Pentecostal church was also seized by the militia), and they may be turned into hospitals if needed. Access to the Kiev Temple is denied for Sergey because of the risk he might get arrested because of his militia activities. Sergey says that the Salt Lake City Central Mission doesn’t interfere in their followers’ political life. The president of their mission, an American, left when the situation began to heat up. Local LDS members gathered humanitarian aid and took it to Semyonovka under fire through Ukrainian checkpoints, and Sergey claims that LDS leaders have sent millions of dollars to help the Donbass.

Sergey is dedicated to fighting for Donbass, but does not look upon the struggle as Ukraine vs. Russia or Ukrainians vs. Russians. This shows that he's thinking about the future -- and the need for reconciliation once the conflict is resolved.

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