Fulbright scholar, professor talks about Ukranian political conflict, elections

Quanit Ali

With an ongoing Ukrainian conflict and an upcoming election, students will soon have the opportunity to choose the next president, who could play a major role in the conflict’s resolution. 

The Ukrainian conflict began with the Russian federation’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. The military conflict has extended so far that the Russian government has sent military troops to Donbass, Ukraine, and political escalation has created a situation with no easy solution.

After the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove Viktor Yanukovych as its president, a gaping hole was left in Ukrainian politics, allowing the Russian government the opportunity to annex Crimea in fear of ethnic retaliation.

Volodymyr Dubovyk, a Fulbright scholar and associate professor at Mechnikov National University, came to UT to deliver his perspective on the ongoing Ukrainian crisis and the problems the country currently faces.

“We don’t want escalation of the war,” Dubovyk said. “People are coming home in coffins on a daily basis.”

The crisis has captured the attention of Brian Selman, a Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies graduate student. 

With the upcoming Nov. 8 election, Selman said picking a political leader with strong foreign policies is a big part of choosing a candidate, and UT students should educate themselves on who to vote for based on their platforms toward similar issues.

“You always have to remember the president we elect will be in charge of foreign and domestic affairs, and we need to make sure to elect someone who keeps a balance of both,” Selman said.

Rebekka Sherman-Loeffler, outreach coordinator at the Center for Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, said the crisis forces UT students to consider the big picture and challenge their academic mindsets.

“Academia isn’t just sitting down and cramming knowledge,” Sherman-Loeffler said. “These talks are part of being challenged and learning more,”

Dubovyk said the Russian government’s action were in complete violation of the Budapest Referendum, a document which gave assurances against Russia using force to violate the integrity of Ukraine’s independence.

Dubovyk said a factor into the crisis’ depth was the lack of aid given to Ukraine to fight off the Russians. He advocates that Ukraine should be given some amount of military aid to fight Russia, a move that would create even more tension with U.S.-Russian foreign relations.

“I don’t think anyone even believes that Ukraine deserves to be invaded just because it is a corrupt country,” Dubovyk said.

Dubovyk said a large reason the crisis began was because of government corruption which caused political division and weakened national state of affairs. 

The pressure to end Ukrainian corruption needs to come from within and outside of Ukraine to force a major change in the political system and how people earn their elected positions instead of buying votes, Dubovyk said.

“The [government] says to the people ‘break the system,’ but they are the guardians of the system,” Dubovyk said.