Olga Rudenko

Olga Rudenko writes for Religion News Service.

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Oleksandr Turchynov's Baptist Faith May Help Defuse Ukrainian Crisis

by Olga Rudenko 02-27-2014

Oleksandr Turchynov, the interim president of strife-torn Ukraine. Photo courtesy of ВО Свобода, via Wikimedia Commons/RNS

Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov is neither Ukrainian Orthodox nor Eastern Rite Catholic, and that may be the key to his success at a time when fissures between East and West are threatening to split the country, analysts say.

“It plays against the stereotype that the pro-democracy, pro-Western protesters are mostly Ukrainian-speaking Catholics,” said Vitaly Chernetsky, a professor of Slavic languages at the University of Kansas and president of the Massachusetts-based American Association for Ukrainian Studies.

Turchynov, a Baptist pastor, became Ukraine’s interim head of state on Sunday, a day after President Viktor Yanukovych was forced out amid a barrage of criticism from protesters who occupied the capital’s central square, known as the Maidan in Ukrainian, for the past three months.