- (Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman)
The head of the Europe-based World Council of Churches has called on those involved in the ongoing Ukraine crisis to "refrain from violence."
The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary for WCC, released a statement Monday expressing concern for the people of Ukraine, specifically in the Crimea region.
"The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned by the current dangerous developments in Ukraine," said Tveit.
"The situation puts many innocent lives in grave jeopardy. And like a bitter wind from the Cold War, it risks further undermining the international community's capacity to act now or in the future on the many urgent issues that will require a collective and principled response."
Tveit commented on the issues facing the Crimea region, a land area that borders the Black Sea which has been divided up by the Ukraine and Russia since the fall of Communism.
"I call urgently on all parties to refrain from violence, to commit to dialogue and diplomacy, and to avoid escalation by rash words or actions," said Tveit.
"The consequences of failing to do so will inevitably be much greater human suffering in Ukraine, and a deep rift in the social and political fabric of the region and in the wider international community."
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has struggled to determine its direction between pro-Russian and anti-Russian policies.
Many of the tensions between the two Eastern European nations have been in regards to the oil Russia provides Ukraine.
For months, large-scale protests have erupted in Ukraine over President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to reject an accord with the European Union over closer ties to Russia, according to BBC.
"Thousands of people, outraged that a long-standing aspiration for integration with Europe had been ditched overnight, poured into central Kiev for peaceful protests," reported the BBC.
"For many people, they were less about Europe than about getting rid of a president who they believed was clinging to power and serving the interests of his own close circle and Moscow."
Eventually, Ukraine's Parliament voted to impeach Yanukovych, who decried his removal from power as a "coup." This ousting prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to build up a military presence in Crimea.
Putin has explained to media that he does not intend to annex the whole of Crimea and will only resort to force as a final resort, reported Laura Smith-Spark and Diana Magnay of CNN.
"Putin said Ukraine is a brotherly neighbor of Russia – and that the troops there have much in common. He also said Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea," wrote Smith-Spark and Magnay.
"Military action, he said, would be 'completely legitimate' because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia's duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic."