The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has moved 23 missionaries within Ukraine amid violence, chaos and the threat of war.
To keep them safe, the church moved missionaries in the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission from the Crimean peninsula — the main pro-Russian flashpoint in Ukraine’s brewing civil crisis — to other unspecified areas within the mission "as a precautionary measure," according to a statement released Saturday by the LDS Church.
Ukraine, which shares its eastern border with Russia, has seen growing and violent civil unrest for weeks.
Tensions in the country escalated further Saturday when Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to have authorized a military takeover of the Crimea region in East Ukraine, after receiving the go-ahead from Russia’s parliament.
Ukraine’s acting president announced the country’s military forces were to be ready to strike back against Russian forces. Oleksandr Turchynov also ordered increased security around the nation’s nuclear power plants, airports and cities.
Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine, which, like Russia, was a part of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine’s first official LDS congregation of nearly 40 members was organized in 1991. The LDS Church launched its mission in Kiev the next year by deploying 35 missionaries to the country, which, at the time, had a population of about 52 million.
Ukraine now has about 11,000 members, four missions and 56 congregations, according to the church.
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