Concerns for MSU Professionals in Russian Region

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Rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine creates concern for the safety of Americans traveling overseas. It’s a situation that’s changing by the minute.

Michigan State University has people working around the globe. Professor Maureen Conner with the School of Criminal Justice has spent several weeks in the Ukraine over the past year, working with a program that trains court administrators. She was ordered to return home last week because of concerns for her safety.

Conner saw the tensions rise from a visit in December, to her last trip in February to Kiev. She says she witnessed protests in the streets, as people took a stand against a corrupt government. “They have this spirit about them that they want to chart their own course and part of what happened in the streets was, I think the human spirit rising up."

The protests, Conner said, lead to violence as the government sent it’s people in. She said it soon became tough to get around the city. The government was closing down the streets and the subways and they weren't sure what they were going to do about the airports, and they, the government, had also brought in people who were favorable to the government and they were roaming the streets and causing problems and attacking people in the streets."

The violence in the Ukraine is also on the mind of MSU Sports Medicine Dr. Jeff Kovan. He hugged his wife goodbye Monday morning, as he boarded the Michigan Flyer in East Lansing to Metro Airport in Detroit. Kovan is headed to Sochi, Russia, where he will volunteer the next two weeks, to care for U.S. Paralympians. He says he’s a bit nervous about the trip, but excited for the opportunity to help athletes he finds fascinating. “Sometimes things happen for a reason and if there's something crazy that happens when I'm overseas we'll figure out how to manage it when we get to it. “If it's because we can help other people along the way so be it."

Kovan has faith the U.S. Olympic Committee will take care of its people. Conner relies on her faith, as she watches from afar, a struggle for a country she says is “worth saving.”

Conner says, “It was a life changing experience. They're very thoughtful about their country."