BY RIPSIME OVSEPYAN
Ukraine’s government has reacted to aggressive Russian movements in Crimea, with the country’s acting president Oleksandr Turchinov declaring that Ukrainian soldiers have prepared an army to defend the eastern regions of the country. This has led to an agglomeration of soldiers and military equipment on the country’s border with Russia, despite the occupation of the Crimean peninsula by Russian troops in recent weeks.
International student Hayk Ovsepyan is from Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine. “My country is in a danger being occupied part by part by Russia,” he said. “Their purpose is not to protect people – they just want to get more of the territory, as they did with Crimea.”
Ukrainians say they are afraid of their country being occupied, but at the same time, people support the government’s wait-and-see approach in response to Russian actions. The general sentiment is of one which is keen to avoid an aggressive military response – and not merely because of the obvious risk of war.
“In some of the eastern cities, protests are taking place – any military intervention could cause a civil war,” said a Kharkiv-based journalist, Marina Boreyko. “I am sorry that Mr Putin, instead of taking care [of] his people, is busy provoking ours.
“A very small number of people that I know want to see Ukrainian territories as a part of Russian Federacy. Those people are traitors – they are unworthy to live in this country, as we never get pressured by western Ukrainians,” she said.
The Russian Federation claims that Crimeans, southern and eastern Ukrainians are in danger and need to be ‘protected’ from western Ukrainians. Russian officials blame such westerners for ‘Nazi’ tactics, and consider protests in the Kiev’s Independence Square groundless aggression.
But many Crimeans say they did not need to be either protected or ‘rescued’. They view the conflict as less of a ‘real’ war, than one manufactured by politicians.
“Before this referendum, I thought they just try to protect their military base in Sevastopol from the possible attacks after protests in Kiev,” said native Crimean Natalya Tumanova. “I speak in Russian all my life and I’ve never been pressured or offended for that by anyone.”
Nor do the protesters in Kiev share the Russian point of view. They say the events in the ‘Maydan’ Square connected Ukrainians from different parts of the country in pursuit of democracy and freedom.
“We’ve been sick of the corrupted Government and judiciary,” said Lviv resident Pavlo Markovskiy. “Provocateurs that are shouting that Crimea and eastern Ukraine should join Russia should understand that nobody keeps them in Ukraine – they can go and live in Russia. Ukraine is an international country and we respect all nations, religions and cultures in our territory. We aim [for] democracy for everyone, and won’t let Putin provoke our people and stop us. He should understand that we are a strong spirit nation and we appreciate and value our freedom.”