MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 28th of December, 2022.
Thank you for joining us for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up today: Ukraine.
Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine began ten months ago, and the consequences of this second invasion have been devastating.
At least 6,700 civilians have died and more than 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action.
In addition, nearly 13 million people have been displaced and the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure amounts to more than 100 billion U.S. dollars.
REICHARD: WORLD’s Jill Nelson gives us a rundown of the key events of the war and how it’s affected the lives of Ukrainians.
JILL NELSON, REPORTER: The sun had not yet risen on Feb. 24th, when Pastor Oleg Magdych realized Ukraine was on the brink of war. Russians were firing rockets less than a mile away.
MAGDYCH: So this morning we were driving through Kharkiv. We heard this noise that you can’t get it wrong. So um the rocket shelling was in place.
Magdych was trying to deliver supplies to Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. He and his friends quickly turned around to implement their Russian-invasion game plan: Get their families to safety and join the fight.
A mass exodus of people created traffic jams and gas shortages, and many Ukrainians were trapped.
Four days later, a 40-mile long Russian military convoy stretched from Belarus to Kyiv. Washington offered to help evacuate Ukraine’s leader.
But Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky turned down the offer with his now-famous response: “I need ammunition, not a ride.”
The former comedian and TV star quickly became a global symbol of resistance and courage. He posted videos of himself unshaven and wearing khakis on the streets of Kyiv and called on Ukrainians and the world to stand up to Russia.
ZELENSKY: We all must stop Russia. The world must stop the war.
As Russian missiles fell on Kyiv, the Ukrainian military and ordinary citizens began fortifying the capital.
By then, Pastor Magdych was leading a civil defense unit stationed in Kyiv.
MAGDYCH: So this is one of the bridges that is closed to public, and you can only cross it if you are military personnel (honk) or some kind of special force. The bridge is empty and it’s ready to be destroyed if the enemy comes close to the bridge.
Russia had more firepower, but Ukraine had grit, Western aid, and knowledge of the terrain. By March 25th, Russian troops pulled back from Kyiv and shifted to the east. Victory number one for Ukraine.
Oleksandra Matviichuk leads the Center for Civil Liberties. She sent teams in to document the atrocities and add them to their growing list of Russian war crimes.
MATVIICHUK: I asked to myself why such cruelty? Why such brutality? Even me, professional human rights lawyer who was documented war crimes, as I mentioned before, for 8 years, I wasn't prepared because so much human pain.
And the war crimes continued.
AUDIO: [Mariupol bombing]
Bombings in the southern city of Mariupol killed more the 600 people in March. In April, a Russian missile struck a train station near Donetsk, killing 50 civilians. By then, Russia had taken over key regions in the south and northeast.
By May, Russia’s northern neighbors were getting nervous.
Both Finland and Sweden announced plans to apply for NATO membership after two centuries of neutrality. Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Bradley Bowman:
BOWMAN: NATO is not a threat to Russia. But I think the reason why Putin resents NATO is because when a country becomes a member of NATO, it prevents Putin from invading, bullying, and occupying that country.
Meanwhile, Magdych was injured when his unit came under fire in the eastern Donbas region in May. He had surgery on his arm, and two of his men died.
MAGDYCH: I’m back from Kyiv where we had funerals for two of our fallen soldiers. I’m doing okay. My leg and my arm are healing well. I can hold the gun. Not for long, but I can hold the gun.
During the summer months, Russia completed its conquest of Luhansk in the east, and Ukraine began a massive counteroffensive in the south.
Fall brought two more victories to Ukraine: They reclaimed 3000 square miles of the northeastern Kharkiv region in September and declared a November victory in the strategic southern region of Kherson. But renewed missile attacks on Kyiv rattled the capital. So did the presence of Iranian-supplied drones.
In December, Matviichuk traveled to Stockholm to deliver a speech on the world stage.
NOBEL PRIZE: I have the honor to call up Oleksandra Matviichuk representing the Center for Civil Liberties to deliver the Nobel Peace Prize lecture…
Her organization won the Nobel prize for their work documenting Russian war crimes in her country. During her speech she called out the democratic world for making concessions to dictatorships.
MATVIICHUK: And that is why the willingness of the Ukrainian people to resist Russian imperialism is so important. We will not leave people in the occupied territories to be killed and tortured.
Now, it’s winter in Ukraine. Pastor Magdych is back home with his family in Kyiv for a two-week break before he returns to the front lines. He says blackouts are common as Russia attacks the country’s infrastructure. They only have power for part of the day.
MAGDYCH: At the moment we are getting ready for the Russians and Belarusians to try to take Kyiv again. And It breaks my heart as a father because I know my son really wants to be with me and fight with me.
Magdych says a Russian takeover of Kyiv would put his family in danger.
MAGDYCH: If Russians advance, it would put under danger all Christian ministers because Russians hate two things. They hate all Ukrainians and they hate non-Russian Orthodox.
Russian forces have taken over churches and tortured and killed Christian leaders in occupied Ukrainian territory. Ukrainians have a long road ahead, but Magydych says God is at work, strengthening the church through these times of suffering.
MAGDYCH: I’ve been saying since 2014 that 10 minutes under heavy shelling in the bunker changes your theology, it changes the way you think about God and everything. And I know that after we win this war, the Protestant church would be much much better.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Jill Nelson.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: WORLD Tour with our reporter in Africa, Onize Ohikere. Today, significant international stories of 2022.
ONIZE OHIEKERE, REPORTER: The conflict in Ukraine spurred a food crisis in other parts of the world this year.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, but the war stymied the export of wheat, other foodstuffs, and fertilizers.
AUDIO: [Iraq protest]
Worldwide, protesters crowded the streets, decrying rising food prices from Iraq and Tunisia, to Ghana. Lebanon was also hit hard by the shortage as it imports 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine.
AUDIO: [Ship offloading]
In September, a cargo ship from Ukraine offloaded dried corn, other grains, and vegetable oil at a port in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
A month earlier, a UN-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 tonnes of wheat docked in Djibouti. The UN’s World Food Program said the food brought much-needed support to the drought-hit Horn of Africa region, which is still in the throes of a record dry-spell.
AUDIO: [Sounds from Somalia’s streets]
Aid workers in the Horn of Africa sounded the alarm this year that a perfect storm of multiple crises will fuel unprecedented starvation.
Five consecutive rainy seasons have disappointed across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.The drought has destroyed crops, killed livestock, and forced millions of people to migrate in search of food and water. The region is facing its worst drought in at least 40 years.
The United Nations humanitarian office has projected that 1 in 23 people will need some form of emergency aid over the next year.
Meanwhile in Pakistan…
AUDIO: [Water rushing]
Record floods this year displaced more than 660,000 people and killed nearly 1,500—about a third of them children. The disaster left aid groups scrambling to provide emergency and long-term support to stop diseases from spreading.
We head over to Haiti, where teeming gang violence came to a head this year.
AUDIO: [Protesters chanting]
In September, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced the government’s plans to withdraw fuel subsidies. That sparked street protests.
A powerful gang dug trenches and blocked access to the largest fuel terminal in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The blockade forced gas stations to close, fueled a shortage of clean water, and limited operating hours for grocery stores and hospitals. A cholera outbreak also began during the blockade, triggering even more calls for a solution.
AUDIO: [Motorcycles queuing for fuel]
Haitian security regained control of the terminal last month allowing fuel to flow again.
But the unrest has taken a much larger toll. The UN said this month that gangs killed more than 1,400 people and kidnapped more than 1,000 others this year alone. Haiti was already battling instability that heightened last year after the former president’s assassination and an ongoing economic crisis.
Next, we remember the Christians who faced persecution for their faith. We begin in Nigeria.
AUDIO: [Choir singing]
Just before Mass ended, gunmen opened fire inside St. Francis Catholic Church in southwestern Ondo state. About 40 people died in the Pentecost Sunday attack in one of Nigeria’s more peaceful states.
The country has faced a surge in violence from Islamist insurgents to criminal gangs.
AUDIO: [Sound of protests]
An irate mob of Muslim students in Nigeria’s Sokoto state stoned to death Deborah Samuel, a Christian classmate who posted a social media message they found offensive.
AUDIO: [Worshippers singing]
In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega’s government shut down seven radio stations owned by the Catholic Church. Authorities also detained Rolando Álvarez, the Catholic bishop of Matagalpa. He was charged this month with undermining national security and propagating false news.
Relations between Ortega and the Catholic Church have been tense since the bloody suppression of anti-government protests in 2018 that left more than 350 people dead.
In China, authorities introduced regulations to control religious expression online. The measures implemented in March stop individuals from sharing religious content without a license among other measures.
AUDIO: [Evin fire aftermath]
There was some good news, Iran unexpectedly released two imprisoned Christians in October after a fire and clashes erupted at the notorious Evin prison. They were convicted on national security charges and for starting illegal house churches.
We wrap up this year looking back at the protests in Iran.
AUDIO: [Protesters chanting]
Nationwide demonstrations that began in September have persisted.
The protests began after a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman died in police custody. Iran’s morality police arrested Mahsa Amini for wearing her headscarf incorrectly.
AUDIO: [Protesters chanting]
Authorities have detained more than 18,000 people since the protests began and executed some of them.
Iran accused Majid Reza Rahnavard of stabbing to death two security officials last month. Authorities hanged him from a construction crane. In the first confirmed execution, authorities hanged Mohsen Shekari after sentencing him for attacking a security force member with a machete.
Activists warn others have already received death sentences.
That’s it for this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.
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