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Ukrainian-Born Wash U Researcher Reflects On The Turbulent State Of Her Homeland

via Wikimedia Commons

The instability in Ukraine has the world watching and waiting.  Following Crimea’s return to the Russian fold, separatists in the rest of the country are demanding the same for the rest of Ukraine.  The west-leaning government in Kiev says the separatists are Russian proxy agents.  Russian troops are near the border, and civil war is threatened.

According to the latest from NPR, Ukrainian tanks are on the move in the eastern part of the country, some of them bearing Russian flags.

On April 15 St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh spoke with Ukranian-born Olga Chyzh to get her perspective on the situation. She is a post-doctoral research associate in the Political Science Department at Washington University and still has family in Ukraine.

“I think that Russia has as its end goal to take over the whole territory of Ukraine and maybe not even stop at Ukraine but also perhaps annex other territories of the former Soviet Union,” said Chyzh.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he is protecting Russian citizens by moving into Ukraine, but as an ethnic Russian Chyzh says she does not feel threatened.

“Is there a threat to ethnic Russians? As an ethnic Russian, I don’t feel like there is a threat to me, at least not from the Ukrainian government,” she said. “I talk to a lot of my friends who also don’t consider themselves to be under threat and in need of protection. So, you can definitely dispute how much of a threat there is and that of course questions the motives of the Russian government.”

Chyzh called the vote in Crimea last month “a gross mockery of what it means to hold a free and fair election.”

“The choices on the ballot were basically the same,” she said, adding that with troops on the ground “people were forced to vote.”

Before Russia’s annexation of Crimea, many of her friends and family supported Putin’s policies. But now they resent him, she said.

While so far there has been limited bloodshed in the interactions between Russian and Urkanian military, Chyzh believes that war is coming.

“I honestly don’t [know] how else this is going to [be] resolved. I think on one hand the Russian government is not going to stop. And on the other hand, I think at some point the Ukrainian government is going to start fighting back,” she said.

“They have started fighting back a little bit but those have been very meager efforts. What I’m saying is that I think they will eventually start fighting back and there will be bloodshed and arrests and the situation is going to get much worse.”

The recorded interview with Olga Chyzh aired April 16 on St. Louis on the Air in combination with a discussion with Monica Eppinger, assistant professor at Saint Louis University School of Law.  Eppinger is an expert on diplomacy and sovereignty, and has spent time in Ukraine both as an academic and as a diplomat in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Like Chyzh, Eppinger sees the possibility of war on the horizon, although she wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as a civil war.

“If there were what looked like a civil war in Ukraine, it would actually be a Russian invasion with some Ukrainian resistance to it,” she said.

For more on Eppinger’s perspective, read her commentary on Ukraine.

St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
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