Ukraine: A Student's Perspective
By Oleksandr Tereshchuk Ukrainian Student Interning in the United States
There is a most unusual country that stretches across the territory of Eastern Europe. Its name is pleasing to my ear: Ukraine!
It is a country that has a unique nature, the most hardworking people, and unique traditions. I am struck by the beauty of the local landscape which is intimate with my heart. I can’t help but fascinate at the orchards generously giving their fruits to the people. Fields and meadows give birth to the light breeze of purity and freshness and symbolize freedom and tranquility. My heart is overwhelmed with love of the extraordinary and majestic Crimean Mountains and the Carpathians which lead to their hidden secrets and riddles promising to open them. Water of the Black and Azov Seas warms me as fresh milk and bodes serenity.
But over the last 3 months, everything abruptly has been changed. I’m sure that everyone at least once had chance to hear about Euromaidan during this winter. Most of that information has been changed or embellished by representatives of the media and each has developed its own point of view. I suggest you view the information without preconceived prejudice regarding the recent events in Ukraine.
It is very important to obtain truthful and objective information in order to have the opportunity to look at the events at the correct angle and formulate one’s own, independent point of view. In the following essay I cited only true, unmodified history of recent events in Ukraine, how the Ukrainian people see it.
Protests originally erupted in November 2013 after President Viktor Yanukovych chose not to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union at the summit of the Eastern Partnership at Vilnius, choosing closer ties with Russia instead. The president had asked for US$20 billion in loans and aid. The EU was willing to offer €610 million ($838 million) in loans, however Russia was willing to offer $15 billion in loans. Russia also offered the Ukraine cheaper gas prices. In addition to the money, the EU required major changes to the regulations and laws in the Ukraine. Russia, however, did not. Russia also applied economic pressures on the Ukraine and launched a propaganda campaign against the EU-Ukraine. But the people of Ukraine had their views on the matter.
A period of relative calm in the anti-government demonstrations ended abruptly on February 18, 2014, when protesters and police clashed. The police beat women and children. Kiev was in total anarchy. At least 95 people were killed over the following few days, including 13 policemen and over 1,100 were injured. Central Kiev saw the worst violence yet, and the death toll in 48 hours of clashes rose to at least 77.
On February 22nd the Parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, voted 328–0 in favour of impeaching Yanukovych and scheduled new presidential elections for May 25th.
Yanukovych fled to Crimea and managed to escape, most likely with the assistance of the Russians. He now presents a serious danger to the future of the country. As long as he is alive, there will always be a pretender to power. The evidence is staggering; there was a great deal of money that was stolen from the country. Yanukovych’ house is being viewed by many as a “museum of corruption” and the people will not leave Maidan until the snipers Yanukovych ordered to kill people are punished. In addition, the people are refusing to accept anyone who was in politics, for trust has been abolished.
We did not have time to finish with Euromaidan and now we are on the threshold of a new war with Russia. The country could hardly begin to recover before reports of pro-Russian protests emerge from the country’s southeast. Russia, just like the US, has military bases on foreign soil, and existing agreements with Ukraine allowed Russia it’s biggest base by the Black Sea. Russian forces begin moving around Ukraine, apparently both on legitimate terms of the military agreement, and in violation of those terms. Crimea, a peninsula with many ethnic Russians, is suddenly full of Russian plated-trucks and aircrafts, and men carrying Russian guns (while denying that they’re Russian), seize its parliament and airport. The Crimean parliament – presumably accompanied by men with guns – votes to hold a referendum on May 25th regarding the region’s “autonomy.”
On the 28th of February, Yanukovych reappears in Russia, denouncing the “coup” and asking Putin to act decisively. The next day, Russia’s parliament approves Putin’s request to intervene militarily in Ukraine, to “protect the ethnic Russian minority”. Ukrainian forces in Crimea refuse to surrender, though forces speaking Russian and armed with Russian arms surround their bases. Ukraine’s interim president says Russia is trying to provoke Ukraine into war. The UN Security council calls emergency meetings and President Obama denounces Putin’s actions and threatens sanctions. Finally, on March 4th, Putin breaks his silence and tells a press conference that military force is a last resort, Yanukovych has no political future, and the chaos in Ukraine is in part due to rogue agents and western nations’ interference.
In summation, Ukraine doesn’t have Crimea anymore, 100.000 Russian military officers are located on a Ukrainian border and ready to start a war, and the Russians are not showing any sign that they are listening to the Ukrainian people. Ukraine declared a general mobilization and is ready to use weapons to protect her borders. All my friends have already received a summons to military enlistment, some of them already undergoing accelerated military training. Everyone is shocked from such arrogance and audacity, with not enough words to describe their displeasure. Nobody expected such a turn of events, especially from our neighbors (Russia). Everyone is on edge, in a premonition of war.
Ukraine has come a long way in fighting for their freedom, and they refuse to give up now. After all the recent events, patriotism has been very strong. People don’t care about the religion you practice, or language you speak, if you’re Ukrainian and you’re a patriot who is ready to fight for Ukraine, you’re our brother. Ukrainians are a great, freedom-loving people and we will fight for our freedom until the last patriot of Ukraine goes down. This is just the beginning.
Zhirinovsky, whose nationalist Liberal Democratic party largely backs President Vladimir Putin in the Russian parliament, sent the letter as Russia annexed the Crimea region of southern Ukraine last week. He is deputy speaker at the Duma and his party holds a minority in the parliament. But his ideas and language resonate with a large part of the Russian population and the Kremlin’s increasingly pro-nationalist rhetoric. His letter, seen by Reuters, suggested Poland, Hungary and Romania, who are now in the European Union, might wish to take back regions which he said were in the past their territories. The regions were incorporated into Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two and featured in a secret annex of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact under which the Soviet and Nazi German foreign ministers carved up the area.
“It’s never too late to correct historical errors,” Zhirinovsky wrote.