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Ukrainian-Russian conflict: Voices In The Crowd

This month's Voices in the Crowd covers a potential looming conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the issue of Ukrainian sovereignty. We spoke to 4 Ukrainians and 4 Russians to gather their thoughts on this new escalation and what Russia seeks to achieve from this high stakes face-off.

Q1: Do you think Russia will attack Ukraine?

Dimitri, age 25, from Ukraine: No, I think it's highly unlikely that the Russian Federation would engage in a military conflict in Ukraine at this point. Firstly, because Russian officials have been widely open with the public concerning the situation. Sergey Lavrov, the minister of foreign affairs, confirmed that Russia is engaged in negotiations with the US and NATO to prevent further escalation. Russia stated that the terms and resolutions that were offered by the US were not acceptable as they little regard to the security of Russia and its affairs. Secondly Ukrainian and European intelligence stated that there are no signs of a preparation for an invasion. A full scale invasion requires supply lines, medical and engineering units, armored divisions and hordes of troops, which is not what is being seen in West Russia. And lastly, it's not in anyone's interest to begin a world War over Ukraine, both sides would suffer huge losses as well as a financial shock. Russia is Europe's biggest supplier of gas, going against that partnership would greatly hurt the undiversified Russian economy. This conflict is literally over the strategic location of Ukraine serving as a buffer zone between the east and west.

Ivan, age 30, from Russia: Well first I think Russia most likely won't attack Ukraine, at least I hope so, but maybe they would and then that would be very, very stupid.

Vera, age 25, from Russia: I don’t think it will actually happen. I can’t even imagine it.

Alexander, age 22, from Russia: It was a dramatic event for the majority if not for the entire Russian/Ukrainian nations the last time that an invasion happened. I believe it won’t happen again, however, my opinion is biased since I am in favor of it not happening again.

Pasha, age 20, from Ukraine: If the question is whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine, my answer is that Russia is already invading Ukraine, for example, in places like Donetsk. This a place where they are gathering soldiers and where we have had war for around 6 years already, if not more. So yes, Putin is already invading Ukraine.

Vlad, age 45, from Ukraine: As Ukrainians it’s something we’ve always kept in the back of our minds. I don’t think that he’ll attack now but there’s a strong chance that it will happen within the next year or so.

Dima, age 26, from Russia: I don't think they will. If they do, it would be a disaster for anyone. It’s a stupid decision, where I see no benefits. Why would they do that ?

Artyom, age 32, from Ukraine (but ethnically Russian): Yes I believe it is inevitable. Putin sees Ukraine as being a NATO hub in the region. That “capitalism” will break through his wall of lies and corruption. It could happen at any moment.

Q2: Why do you think Putin has been sending 100,000 soldiers there? What is he trying to achieve?

Alexander, age 22, from Russia: I do not know the exact numbers of the soldiers next to the Ukrainian border if that’s what you mean. I believe they are placed there this time in order to portrait an intimidating image, nothing more.

Artyom, age 32, from Ukraine (but ethnically Russian): Putin is sending his thugs to rebuild the Iron Curtain. I think he wants us to fear God before he stomps out our spirit. Even I, as an ethnic Russian, do not want anything to do with Russia. Ukraine taught me freedom, Russia has only ever taught me to fear.

Vlad, age 45, from Ukraine: I believe he is trying to intimidate us to give a message that he is always peering over at us and that we are at his mercy. It's clearly a dream of his to establish the Soviet Union. I was a child when the Berlin wall fell along with the Soviet Union, but it’s not impossible that we’ll see another one.

Ivan, age 30, from Russia: He's trying to bluff, he's trying to make a point and to frighten people and he's just using it as a negotiation tactic in a very dominant way, that for most people would be a very vicious and very violent form of communication.

Pasha, age 20, from Ukraine: It's a show of strength, to show everyone how strong Russia is. For me I still don't understand the reason why Putin is doing this, since Russia will receive extreme sanctions if they attack Ukraine, so I don't really think an attack will happen.

Dima, age 26, from Russia: Putin has been sending 100000 soldiers there as part of some dangerous gamble and in order to strengthen his position at the negotiating table…He does not want to see NATO's constant encroachment closer to Russian borders. He believes Russia was treated unfairly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and that some security guarantees that had been made, were not kept.

Dimitri, age 25, from Ukraine: When I served in the IDF late 2016 and 2017, we dealt with ISIS in Syria. I witnessed and took part in the biggest military exercises in the history of Israel. More than 60 thousand troops and reserves were deployed in the northern district, close to Lebanon and Syria. We were drilling for various battle scenarios, adapting to the terrain and improving battle readiness, response times and morale. Russia stated that it is ready to protect its interests and its border at all costs as any other sovereign state. So I see Russian troops on its western borders as a deterrent or a projection of power. Call it what you like.

Vera, age 25, from Russia: This is a way to show the Western world that it’s a wrong idea to mess with Russia.

Q3: Do you think Ukraine should be a part of Russia?

Vlad, age 45, from Ukraine: Absolutely not, because we have our own language and our own culture. Ukrainian is actually closer to Polish than Russian. Why should we become another puppet Russian slave state like Dagestan and Chechnya?

Vera, age 25, from Russia: No, it should not.

Artyom, age 32 from Ukraine (but ethnically Russian): As a whole nation no, but if certain regions vote with a very high majority to join Russia, let them suffer the consequences, as I believe in democracy. But I fear if such a thing were to happen, it could just be another appeasement like with Hitler and the Sudetenland.

Ivan, age 30, from Russia: For me, I don't think Ukraine should be a part of Russia, no, no. I actually think Russia is too big and if some of the republics that are russian federation would be free, it would be much better. For example, if St. Petersburg would be a different country, it could be a much richer country then it is now, as a city in Russia.

Dimitri, age 25, from Ukraine: Growing up in Eastern Ukraine, I choose to see myself as part of both nations. In a way, I believe we are one. However, I don't see Ukraine as being a part of Russia today, we fought hard for our independence. Each country has its own way, politics, systems/institutions and traditions. This conflict has nothing to do with the relations between Ukraine and Russia. Following the exit of Merkel from being chancellor, the middlemen was cut out and it will take time for world powers to adapt.

Alexander, age 22, from Russia: I believe it would be easier for everybody and bring only more happiness. There are multiple families that have one parent from Russia, another from Ukraine, half a family living in Russia, another in Ukraine. More than 50% of people in Ukraine speak Russian. I believe those two countries have a lot in common and the rivalry between them doesn’t benefit either Russia, or Ukraine.

Dima, age 26, from Russia: No, I do not want to "feed" a hungry and less developed (economically speaking) region. We have enough of them in Russia.

Pasha, age 20, from Ukraine: No, I don't think Ukraine should or will ever be a part of Russia because it's a separate, independent country. It's a very weird question for me because I think if you ask people in Ukraine it will be quite obvious and for many people even insulting. Ukraine is Ukraine and Russia is Russia, we have our own language and so I don't think Ukraine will or should ever be a part of Russia.

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