Last November unrest developed into a conflict crucial for shaping the future of Europe after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suspended signing an association and free trade agreement with the EU.
In the midst of the events unfolding in Ukraine, AAU students and staff gathered together for a forum on the Ukrainian crisis to discuss and disprove some statements presented, mainly by Russian media. The Student council-organized event took place Feb. 26 in room 001, and students showed great interest.
Hosted by Iva Skochova, the forum began with an introduction of panelists who gave their views on the crisis. Ivan Vlasyuk, who is originally from Kiev and who witnessed the Euromaidan himself, began with a brief overview of Ukraine’s history, stating that the country was “never independent as such.”
The Orange revolution in 2004 followed the aftermath of presidential elections and managed to bring about a second run-off, where Viktor Yushchenko was elected, defeating Viktor Yanukovych.
According to Vlasyuk, Yanukovych was then elected president in 2010 and was able to gain power using manipulation techniques and connections with big businesses that were monopolized after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Following the history overview, Vlasyuk made a Skype call to his friend Maxim who was “on the frontline of the events” in Ukraine. Maxim commented on the current mood on Maidan, saying that the opposition was in power and people were “trying to unite together.”
AAU Professor of Ethnic Conflicts in Eastern Europe Ondrej Klima, who works for Czech NGO, People in Need, described activities of the NGO regarding the crisis.
Many journalists “expressed their complete misunderstanding of the situation in Ukraine,” stated Klima, “[And] I’d like to make an anti-defamation.”
His first point was that Yanukovych misused his power and changed “the rules of the game” after he was elected, his initial promise being to stick to the EU. The second point was that protesters at Maidan were a “diverse people” from different layers of society, not only nationalistic groups and “fascists,” as portrayed by Russian media.
AAU Professor Duncan McLean stated that western media, on the other hand, is trying to make Ukraine news digestible for their audience’s, which means simplifying the situation. Olena Kagui, international relations student from Kiev, noted that one of the articles in such media criticized the opposition for not accepting Yanukovych’s propositions.
Anna Shamanska, an AAU journalism student, mentioned that when it comes to languages, both Ukrainian and Russian should be kept as to not separate the Ukrainians. “Russian is my mother tongue but I like Ukrainian as well,” she said. “Nothing should be done about the language.”
International Relations student Andriy Shukhman agreed that possible separation of the country was one of the main concerns, with western and eastern regions differing in many ways.
According to Vlasyuk, eastern parts of Ukraine “for whatever reason, are still considering the previously existing system as acceptable.”
The panelists all agreed that the Russian and Ukrainian perspectives would definitely clash, which proved true with recent events.
Annexation of Crimea by Russian President Vladimir Putin triggered what is believed to be the worst crisis between West and East since the Cold War. The U.S. and the EU have condemned the seizure of Crimea, and imposed sanctions on some of Russia’s leading politicians and security officials.