Students weigh in on Ukraine crisis, coverage in media

(Devon Nitz | The Oswegonian)
(Devon Nitz | The Oswegonian)

On Saturday, Russian troops were deployed to the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, amidst the ‘Euromaidan’ protests that have swept the nation since Dec. 1, 2013.

Ukraine is a country located in Eastern Europe bordering Russia to the east and the European Union nations of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania to the west. Ukraine has been experiencing civil duress over the past four months concerning which way the country would align itself politically and economically; either pro-Russian or pro-European Union.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had promised stronger relations with the EU over Russia, but instead abandoned a far-reaching European Union partnership deal in November, inciting major protests across the country. The protests led to the deaths of at least 88 people, the crumbling of his administration and his subsequent fleeing to Moscow where Russia allegedly said he asked for aid from Russian troops.

The occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation is being widely condemned by the international community as an incursion upon Ukrainian sovereignty, while Russia claims its military intervened on behalf of its own citizens in a destabilized Ukraine. The situation is causing a stir in the United Nations and has U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power calling Russia’s assertions for occupying Crimea “without basis and reality.” In a U.N. Security Council meeting, Power supported the United States’ stance against Russian intervention.

“The central issue is whether the recent change of government in Ukraine constitutes a danger to Russia’s legitimate interests of such a nature and extent that Russia is justified in intervening militarily in Ukraine, seizing control of public facilities, and issuing military ultimatums to elements of the Ukrainian military,” Power said. “The answer, of course, is no.”

In Crimea, there is a large population of ethnic Russians and pro-Russia supporters. A 2001 Ukrainian population census shows that 58 percent of the population in Crimea is ethnically Russian, while only 24 percent is ethnically Ukrainian. This population division gives Russia an advantage. Because Crimea is mostly made up of ethnic Russians, Russia is able to claim its intervention is solely for the protection of its citizens.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama, who strongly opposes Russian military involvement, announced U.S. support for the current Ukrainian government through a press release.

“Since the Russian intervention, we’ve been mobilizing the international community to condemn this violation of international law and to support the people and government of Ukraine,” Obama said. “This morning, I signed an executive order that authorizes sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine or for stealing the assets of the Ukrainian people.”

Although the crisis in Ukraine is far away from Oswego State, students are taking stances on the critical situation abroad. On Tuesday night in the Campus Center, the Political Science Club held a presentation and discussion on the crisis in Ukraine. The event was hosted by students and members Lillia Mitov and Annie Griffith.

Political science and global and international studies double major Stephanie Chytalo, although she disagrees with the Russian military intervention in Crimea, believes the United States would make the same moves Russia is making to protect its own economic interests.

“Well Crimea has a port that is controlled by Russia, in exchange for cheap natural gas from Russia, so I think that’s why they’re in there,” Chytalo said. “And I know that this poses a lot of problems because the European Union gets a lot of oil through Ukraine. And personally, I think the United States would do the exact same thing that Russia is doing, protecting their bases.”

Much of Europe heavily relies on Russia as a major trading partner and depends on Russian natural-gas resources. Political Science major Lillia Mitov, relating back to a Film and Politics: Eastern Europe course she took at Oswego State, sees the situation as difficult for the European Union to address because of crucial economic relations with Russia.

“In our Film and Politics Eastern Europe class we discussed that EU member states receive about 80 percent of its fuel from Ukrainian pipelines,” Mitov said. “And about a quarter of Europe’s gas needs come from Russia.”

When discussing potential conflict and violence in the region at the political science meeting, students hoped for other options and solutions. Students felt there is too much economic risk for the region to fall into violent discord.

“I think Russia just wants a heavy presence there,” Chytalo said. “There’s too much at risk to go to war. I would be really surprised if they actually started fighting, there’s way too much economically at risk.”

While many Oswego State students are keeping up with the constant flow of news coming out of the crisis in Ukraine, broadcasting major Monique Cornett questions if students are actually up to speed. Cornett believes what is happening in Ukraine is important, but questions whether or not students are staying involved with the constantly-changing situation.

“Well, from my perspective in broadcasting, my focus is on how Americans and students in general are interpreting it and how they feel they should care about it,” Cornett said. “So how does this affect me? How does this affect media, news coverage to us, and how media outlets are covering it? I think that’s a big question and that’s why a lot of people don’t understand the crisis that’s going on because they don’t know how it’s affecting them or how to interpret it really.”

The events in Ukraine are ones that political science professor Dr. Lisa Glidden feels Oswego State students should be following closely. She believes that this crisis has the potential to affect global relations and international law greatly.

“Students should know what’s going on because what’s happening in Crimea is going to test international law and potentially set precedent for other places,” Glidden said. “Regardless of the U.S. or NATO, I suppose in this case being involved in, these are just really important world events and history-making world events.”

The crisis in Ukraine is an ever-changing event, with news on the situation rapidly evolving. On Thursday, lawmakers in Crimea voted in favor of Crimea leaving Ukraine to join Russia. The move will be put to a regional referendum in 10 days, and it has been condemned and labeled as illegal by the current Ukrainian government, the United States and the European Union.