What’s going on in Ukraine? Michigan experts, Ukrainian explain

Tensions rising between Russia, Ukraine
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 7:27 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - All eyes are on Russia and Ukraine as war looms over the border. As the world watches, those living there feel the pressure.

Andrii Yurchenko, a former exchange student at Waverly High School, lives in northeastern Ukraine. He said life feels pretty normal for the most part. However, he said signs of war are there if you listen carefully.

Read: War fears grow as Putin orders troops to eastern Ukraine

“I live in a small town, there is not much going on here in general,” said Yurchenko. " “But especially here, we hear the sound of a lot of transports through the town.”

Yurchenko said right now, many Ukrainians, are planning their next move for all possible outcomes. He feels safe where he is, however, he worried about his family closer to Russian-occupied territories.

“I just hope that we will be able to have enough time to move them somewhere safer if their town will be invaded by Russian troops,” said Yurchenko.

Related: Ukrainians, Russians in Mid-Michigan worry for friends and family near conflict

But many Ukrainians have been considering their options for a while. Experts said that’s because tensions between Russia and Ukraine didn’t start overnight. There’s a history between them.

David Jesuit, Professor of Political Science at Central Michigan University, said to understand the conflict you have to go back in time.

“Ukrainian people have been struggling with Russia for hundreds of years for a separate identity,” said Jesuit.

He said the current conflict stems from Ukrainian independence and took off with the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the relationship between Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) helped fuel the fire.

“Russia sees the potential expansion to Ukraine as a threat to their security because it would become a member of a collective security organization which was created to contain Russia,” said Jesuit.

So why would this threaten Russia and what does Russia want?

“Putin has been clear all along about his intent to restore Russia to its former glory,” Jesuit said. “So this shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.”

Jesuit said not only is the conflict an issue of diplomacy but it’s also an issue of identity. On the streets of Ukraine, Yurchenko says the Ukrainian identity is only getting stronger.

“This last I’d say two months, people have become even more united because for the first time in a very long time, eight years, people feel that there might be war all over Ukraine.”

And right now, experts said for the next few weeks, every move by every player is critical.

“I just hope that nobody miscalculates, that there are no mistakes, and that we can manage the escalation of this conflict to limit the damage and suffering unfortunately to the people of Ukraine that’s at this point unavoidable.”


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