Most Ada residents that tuned into world news were struggling to understand who the players are in Ukraine, why there was a crisis there, and what the Russian military presence portended for world peace.
Mara Sukholutskaya, East Central University professor and native Ukrainian, offered insights into all three questions Tuesday.
Sukholutskaya said while she has little sympathy for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, his departure was not handled correctly. Sukholutskaya said Ukraine’s constitution gives three ways to remove a sitting president – death, a letter of resignation, or impeachment.
“I am against Yanukovich,” she said. “He was like a godfather of Ukraine and ran a countrywide mafia. I don’t object that he’s not the president. I cheer for that. But he was elected by the people and should have been removed by impeachment procedure.”
She says Yanukovich abandoned his country and that may be considered comparable to a letter of resignation.
“I can live with that (resignation), but I cannot live with the people who hijacked the peaceful protests in Kiev and peaceful expressions of hopes for a better life. They don’t speak for the majority of Ukrainian people. They are a gang of some sort. I wouldn’t want to deal with them at any level.
“You cannot build democracy on undemocratic measures,” Sukholutskaya said, quoting Dr. Al Turner, former ECU professor and department head.
“Rightwing nationalists hijacked a very good democratic movement and because of that they tainted the whole movement.” She said their leader has said he wants to deport all Jews.
Sukholutskaya’s family is no stranger to misguided oppression. At the age of 20 her father was assigned to a labor camp for 15 years under Stalin’s regime. Worse, her grandfather was executed three days after being arrested on trumped up charges. There was no trial.
She is concerned about Ukrainian relatives, friends and former students in this current crisis.
“I’m on Skype all the time. I have family in Kiev and Odessa and people from Ukraine calling me all the time. I have friends in Crimea. I have former students. I want to know that they are safe and to get as much information as possible to have a better understanding as to what is going on there.
“Crimea is very complicated historically and geographically,” she said.
She said Crimea was a part of Russia for more
than 3,000 years and is primarily populated by Russians. She said 59 percent of Crimea’s population is Russian, 24 percent is Ukrainian, and 15 percent consists of Tartars.
In 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian government signed a 50-year treaty with Russia allowing a Crimean port city to be used as a naval base in exchange for deeply reduced prices in natural gas and other concessions.
Sukholutskaya thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in Crimea is him expressing what he considers his obligation to protect ethnic Russians living there.
Asked what she thinks Pres. Obama’s response to the crisis should be, Sukholutskaya, who speaks five languages, said she believes communication is the best approach.
“I’m a language teacher. I believe in dialogue. Neither Russia nor the European Union need a lawless land in the middle of Europe. It’s a threat to world peace.”