The Rev. Gerard D. ”George” de Vuyst, wife Sarah and their children. / Family Photo
Russia’s military incursion into Crimea remains “explosive,” but the immediate threat to his fellow residents of Kiev appears to have lessened, an American missionary — who has lived in Ukraine for two decades — says in an e-mail update to The Foundry.
“The situation in Crimea is very explosive. We’re afraid that Russia is working to set up a scenario to give itself justification for invading,” the Rev. Gerard D. “George” de Vuyst, of the mission agency Christian Reformed World Missions, writes.
The pastor, whom The Foundry first contacted yesterday, adds of the surprise military action by Russian President Vladimir Putin:
“The Ukrainian military bases are surrounded by troops. There are no talks going on about it. Nobody is willing to identify themselves or speak for the occupiers. Clearly they are Russian and their technology is Russian.”
De Vuyst, 42, from Grand Rapids, Mich., also expressed hope that Americans and others will see through “misinformation” and “missing information” in Western media accounts.
“We’ve heard reports about the history of the region that are shortsighted and don’t get into the reasons behind why Russians are in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine,” writes de Vuyst, who says he became increasingly familiar with Ukraine after studying Russian at Shevchenko State University in Kiev (which the locals spell Kyiv) during 1992. “Russia does not in fact have much of a historical right to these territories if we look deeper into the history.”
As for the crisis itself:
“We are feeling under much less direct threat. As time goes by it seems less likely that Putin will attack Kiev, but we are still prepared to evacuate.”
Some 24 hours earlier, de Vuyst wrote to The Foundry:
“Today there seems to be a sense of de-escalation. Putin recalled his troops from the Eastern borders of Ukraine and sent them back to their bases. Nobody is comfortable that things are over, but we are breathing easier. The standoff in Crimea is still very tense. “Putin’s press conference today was surreal. I’m not sure that he believes what he is saying, but it is so far from reality that it was hard to watch. Life in Kiev is very peaceful. Things feel very normal here, except needing to be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice.”
George de Vuyst, his wife Sarah (who is from Silver Spring, Md.) and their three children moved to Kiev last summer from Mukachevo, a city in southwestern Ukraine where the couple had lived since 1998. They met while he was working in Western Ukraine and she was teaching English in Hungary. They married in December 1999.
The Foundry first obtained e-mail correspondence from the American missionary after he wrote Monday about the mood in Kiev to friends outside Washington, D.C. The de Vuysts maintain a website on their work in Ukraine, where Sarah writes a blog, Sarah’s Snippets, with observations last updated Saturday.
Here is George de Vuyst’s complete e-mail today to The Foundry:
Today was a quiet day. There were attempts at negotiations, but they didn’t seem to get very far. It was a beginning.
The situation in Crimea is very explosive. We’re afraid that Russia is working to set up a scenario to give itself justification for invading. The Ukrainian military bases are surrounded by troops. There are no talks going on about it. Nobody is willing to identify themselves or speak for the occupiers. Clearly they are Russian and their technology is Russian.
We are also concerned about misinformation or missing information in the Western press. We’ve heard reports about the history of the region that are short-sighted and don’t get into the reasons behind why Russians are in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. We hope that people will fact-check their news. Russia does not in fact have much of a historical right to these territories if we look deeper into the history.
We are feeling under much less direct threat. As time goes by it seems less likely that Putin will attack Kyiv, but we are still prepared to evacuate.
So we continue to pray for the political and military leaders and for calm heads to prevail. We pray for the church in Ukraine and Russia to be able to use this to proclaim Christ – the only true peace-maker between God and all people. We pray for the Ukrainian people and their future development.
We are thankful that the international community has reacted so strongly to the Russian aggression and that they have generously come to the aid of the new government in Kyiv.
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.