“I would like to ask Europeans to wake up because what is happening in Ukraine, sooner or later, will touch all of you. Because Ukraine is part of Europe,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halyc expressed during a Feb. 25 news conference.
Archbishop Shevchuk is the head of the Catholic Church in the Ukraine, and spoke with journalists at a news conference in Rome following the major political shifts which have taken place over the last week.
Denouncing the fact that the requests of the Maidan protestors went ignored until the violent bloodbath which took place in the capital Kyiv last week, leaving more than 70 people dead and thousands injured, the archbishop also stated that Ukraine is living in a time of hop, because Kyiv “has become a yeast that has caused the whole Ukrainian population to ferment,” Vatican Radio reports.
However, Archbishop Shevchuk also cautioned that Ukraine is currently going through dark times, because it is unclear how the future of the recent events will unfold.
Recounting in detail the series of events which was sparked after Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a pact with the European Union Nov. 29, the archbishop stated that “if people continue to pretend that nothing is happening, not only will things worsen in Eastern Europe, but this will cause great lack of faith in European values in the Western nations.”
“I would also like to ask for a review of the relations with Ukraine,” he stated, drawing attention to the difficulties that Ukrainian students face regarding visas when they want to study in other European countries.
“We want to build Europe in Ukraine, and only the students can do that” the archbishop observed, noting that “Europe does not have to defend itself from Ukrainian youth.”
Archbishop Shevchuk then appealed for solidarity and aid for those who have been wounded during the Maidan uprising, drawing attention to the many countries who have already offered to welcome the injured, including Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and called on Italy to do the same.
Offering his gratitude to Germany, Poland, and France for sending foreign ministers into the conflict in order to help negotiate peace during the most tense moment of the conflict, he also warned that “this kind of solidarity must continue because the danger that one of our neighbors will provoke a civil war has not blown over.”
The archbishop's comments come in wake of a great political unrest in the Ukraine, which began in November when the government announced it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union, in favor of a $15 billion bailout agreement with Russia.
Since then, tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Kyiv, at times occupying government buildings.
Protests have continued through February, until more than 70 persons were killed – some of them by snipers – during protests at Maidan in Kyiv last week.
On Feb. 21, Yanukovych fled Kyiv, and the next day the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove him from power.
Appointed by parliament Feb. 23, Oleksander Turchyov is currently acting president of the country, and has already announced his desire to strengthen ties with the European Union. He is expected to form a unity government Thursday, and elections have been scheduled for May 25.
Ukraine’s acting president has also warned against the dangers of separatism, a risk from the majority-Russian areas of eastern Ukraine, including Crimea.
In the wake of political changes unfolding after months of violent conflict, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has praised those who have given aid to the country, and warned that the danger of civil war is not yet over.