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Students comment on the crisis in Ukraine

By Ella Barrington, Staff Writer

At 5:07 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, Russian troops launched a series of missile attacks in and around Kyiv, Ukraine, leading to what has become the largest ground invasion in Europe since World War II. Almost immediately, airports, hospitals and schools were attacked. Since then, Russian forces have besieged five cities: Chernihiv, Sumy, Konotop, Kharkiv, and Mariupol. Many larger cities have been shelled, and millions of Ukranians have evacuated their homes. 

Ukraine is a Texas-sized, slavic country that is in-between Europe and Russia. The Eastern-European country is well known for diversity in its landscape, but over the last few weeks, the land that was once known to be beautiful is now surrounded and covered with military and artillery. 

The continuing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine started when the Soviet Union split up in 1991 at the end of the Cold War. Ukraine gained its independence from  the Soviet Union. From late 2013 to early 2014, protests that went on for months in Kyiv, due to the former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, backing out of signing a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union (EU). Instead, he signed a deal with Russia, which led to a lot of Ukrainians expressing their anger through violence. 

In February of 2014, Yanukovych was voted to be removed from office by the Ukrainian parliament. The deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Melinda Haring, told Al Jazeera news that before Russia had even invaded Ukraine, it would  continue to see Ukraine as their property. 

“Part of what we’re seeing here and part of what we’re seeing since 2013, is Moscow does not want to let Ukraine go,”  Haring said.

After Yanokovych was dismissed from office in early 2014, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin’s decision to send Russian forces into Crimea, a peninsula that had been a part of Ukraine since the 1950s, was considered unpredictable. There was a referendum in Crimea, which was a clear violation of Ukrainian constitution and international law, but the Russian-speaking residents of the land voted to join Russia, so Putin annexed the peninsula. 

In April 2014, pro-Russian separatists began to take territory and control, through fighting in two areas, naming them “The People’s Republic of Luhansk and Donetsk.” These two areas are in the western part of Ukraine, bordering Russia. The separatists said that they were independent from Ukraine. Russia was accused of helping them with troops and weapons although Moscow has always denied it. Eight years have passed, and Russia and Ukraine still haven’t been able to resolve this issue.

Baruch graduate Andriy Koretskyy was born in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine, in the city of Novyi Rozdil and moved to the United States at the age of nine. Koretskyy has a lot of his close relatives that still live in Ukraine and is hoping that everything will get better so they remain safe. 

“I have a lot of family in Ukraine, my brother with his family, my grandparents, and all my cousins. Currently, everyone except my brother and his family still live in Ukraine. My brother crossed the Polish border last week to get his wife and two kids to a safer country. My grandparents, on the other hand, are not planning to leave Ukraine, and they are hoping everything will get better,” Koretskyy said.

Koretskyy, agreeing with Haring, believes that Russia has never seen Ukraine as an independent nation. 

“Russia has always looked at Ukraine as their property and never believed in Ukraine’s independence ever since the Soviet Union fell apart,” he said.

Koretskyy goes on,

“The conflict in Ukraine has been happening since 2014 and hasn’t stopped, but no one talked about it because it wasn’t referred to as an official war until recently, even though nearly 1,500 people had died and about 1.5 billion people were forced to evacuate their homes when it had begun in 2014,” Koretskyy said.

Freshman finance major Radmir Khodjakhanov also has personal ties to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“I was born in Uzbekistan, but I lived most of my life in Moscow, Russia, which is why I consider myself to be Russian. This matter involves my country, my friends, and relatives. I also happen to have friends in Ukraine, though most of them have already fled the country,”  Khodjakhanov said. 

Khodjakhanov feels that Russia is attacking Ukraine for a few reasons: land, and wanting to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO is a military alliance that was created in 1949 by the US, Canada, and other Western European nations after WW2 to provide protection against the Soviet Union.

“The main conflict comes down to a few critical factors; Russia wanting to take back territories which belonged to Russia and are currently occupied by ethnic Russians, and Ukraine wanting to join/become a NATO member,” Khodjakhanov said. 

Anti-war protests have been occurring in Long Island, as well as all over the world. Russian protests are getting shut down by police, and protesters are getting arrested and taken into custody for doing so. Koretskyy has gone to a few anti-war protests and he believes that it is important for people, especially Russians, to continue to stand up for what they believe is right.

“Whatever happens, if Russia does win or lose this war, Putin has dug himself, and his country in a very deep hole that he will not be able to get out of. Their economy is tanking and the world finally sees Putin as a risk to everyone. People in Russia need to continue to unite and stand up against Putin and take him out of office,” Koretskyy said.

Currently, President Biden, as well as other leaders and companies have applied sanctions to Russia. The current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been in the front lines with his men, as well as visiting hospitals to meet with his wounded soldiers. Koretskyy is proud and grateful that there is a great president leading his country.

“I think he [Zelenskyy] is showing great leadership, staying calm throughout all of this, and he’s not evacuating Kyiv, which shows his courage and I know that makes me and other people more proud to be Ukrainian,” Koretskyy said.

 In order to support Ukraine, many students are donating to various charities, such as The Ukrainian Red Cross or Global Giving. This story is ongoing as more developments occur.

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