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UI officials, students react to Ukraine protests

BY REBECCA MORIN | FEBRUARY 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Nearly 5,000 miles across the globe, a nation is roiling with political unrest.

Starting in November 2013, citizens of Ukraine began protesting against President Viktor Yanukovych after he stopped working toward a free-trade deal with the European Union.

The protests have continued on with the most recent clash resulting in nearly 22 reported dead and more than 1,000 injured after clashes on Tuesday.

“Ukraine’s population is socially and politically polarized,” said William Reisinger, a UI professor of political science. “In the parts of the country where Russia’s influence is strongest, which are the eastern and southern regions, Ukrainians tend to back President Yanukovych and his pro-Russian policies.”

However, throughout the couple of months, the protests have been hard to keep organized and disciplined, Reisinger said.

“… Some want to use force to get rid of the protesters quickly, while others want a more cautious, peaceful approach,” Reisinger said. “Therefore, behind-the-scenes developments can cause what looked like a good situation last weekend to turn into a very bad one.”

Although the protests are occurring halfway across the world, residents of Iowa City from Ukraine are not ignoring the country’s problems.

UI senior Liliya Bubiy, who moved from Ukraine 10 years ago, said she has followed the recent events online.

“It’s very sad and hard to believe that our government is hurting its own people, but unfortunately, things like this happen everywhere in the world even today,” she said. “I am overfilled with pride after seeing how hard the Ukrainian people are fighting for our freedom and rights, and what’s more astonishing is the fact that Ukrainians all over the world are supporting them.”

The UI has five Ukrainian students enrolled, as well as several other faculty members from Ukraine.
Although there have yet to be any negotiations between the opposing citizens and Yanukovych, officials believe it should happen soon before violence becomes too severe.

“The possibility of the best-case scenario, a negotiated settlement, may be lost if the violence doesn’t stop very soon,” Reisinger said. “On the other hand, if Yanukovych is willing to face foreign condemnation, his government has sufficient military power to end the protests and throw opposition leaders in jail.  It’s possible he has now decided to do so.”

Bubiy said the one option to restore peace is to see Yanukovych to resign.

“…I believe that the only option for our president is resignation,” she said. “The people have placed a lot of trust into him; however, he has continually ignored their wishes, passed laws that limit their freedom of speech, and hurt them through the riot police … Their patience is gone, and they won’t give up until they see him resign.”


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