The last time Anya Ice visited her home in Crimea, she was a citizen of Ukraine.
The next time she returns, she’ll be a member of the Russian Federation – and one of the minority of Crimeans who wishes she wasn’t.
“I am fearful and uncertain if I can go back to visit Crimea in the near future,” said Ice, a Slavic languages graduate student. “I will feel like a foreigner in my own home.”
Three professors who specialize in international relations and Eurasian and East European studies will gather at UCLA Monday to discuss the tense situation between Russia and Ukraine at an event hosted by the Burkle Center for International Relations.
UCLA Professor Daniel Treisman, UC Berkeley professor Edward Walker and USC professor Robert English will all speak at the event, titled “Ukraine in Crisis: Revolution and Russian Intervention.”
The international standoff began with massive street protests in Ukraine and a revolution that led to the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who wanted to bring Ukraine closer to Russia rather than Europe.
After former Ukrainian president Yanukovych fled to Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into the peninsula because he wanted Crimea, a multi-ethnic region which used to be a part of Ukraine and contains a Russian ethnic minority, to join Russia.
Russian troops moved into Crimea – a peninsula jutting out into the Black Sea on the Southern edge of Ukraine – and stationed themselves at Ukrainian military bases around the region. Amid rising tensions and international outcry, the Crimean government held a referendum to decide the peninsula’s fate. An overwhelming percentage of Crimean citizens voted to join Russia.
The referendum was widely condemned as illegitimate and a violation of international law by the United Nations and the U.S. and its allies, who imposed economic sanctions on Russia as a result of its invasion of Crimea and encouragement of the referendum.
Daniel Treisman, a UCLA political science professor who will serve as a panelist and moderator at the event, said he will focus on Russia’s side of the conflict during Monday’s panel by discussing Putin’s strategy in Eastern Europe, what Putin is trying to do and if it will work. Triesman studies Russia, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Edward Walker, a UC Berkeley political science professor and panelist at the event, said he doesn’t think Crimea’s annexation to Russia ended the conflict in Eastern Europe. Triesman and Walker said they think there is still uncertainty about whether Russia intends to invade more areas of Ukraine and some fear that Putin will order Russian troops to occupy other parts of Ukraine.
Panelist Robert English, an international relations professor at USC, will focus on the Ukrainian government’s situation and the difficulties it faces, according to Walker. English could not be reached for comment.
Roman Koropeckyj, a professor of Slavic languages and literature at UCLA, said he plans to attend Monday’s event and hopes the panelists take both Ukraine’s and Russia’s points of view into account.
Koropeckyj added that he thinks it is important for speakers to remain fair and balanced on the issue.
Ice, who grew up in Crimea and has lived in the United States for five years, said she was surprised to find out that less than four percent of Crimeans voted for Crimea to remain a part of Ukraine because many of her family and friends were in support of Crimea staying a part of Ukraine. She said her family thinks things should have remained the way they were and they do not like having a Russian presence in the region.
The Russia takeover of Crimea led to an economic decline in her area, Ice said, and her uncle and sister were both affected negatively because they own private businesses.
Ice said she will attend the event on Monday and said she is interested in hearing what people have to say about Crimea.
At Monday’s event, Walker will focus on what the West should be doing in response, such as working to secure a more stable situation in the region. He said he believes it is still a very dangerous situation, and it is important to think about long-term responses, not just short term ones.
Ice hopes speakers at the event will discuss possible solutions to the issue.