More than 40 students gathered Wednesday evening at the Draper Academic Building for a screening of ‘Rejection: The Fight For Ukraine’.
The screening, sponsored by Baylor’s department of political science, delves into the complex crisis in Eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of the Euromaiden Revolution in Kiev, Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
The film itself used testimonies of journalists, activists and eyewitness footage in order to bring some clarity to the complex story of the rise of pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine’s eastern oblasts in early 2014.
The film focused primarily on the events surrounding the methods pro-Russian activists, patriotic locals, protesters and the Russian government used to establish two independent states seeking control by Russia.
At the screening’s conclusion, Dr. Sergiy Kudelia, assistant professor of political science at Baylor, answered student questions alongside Maria Tomak, a Ukrainian journalist, pro-Ukrainian activist and the film’s author.
Students attending the Q&A session posed questions on a wide variety of topics, including the role of money in the crisis, the Ukrainian militia’s severe lack of support from Kiev and the film’s focus on the pro-Ukrainian side of the movement.
Though the events portrayed in her film occurred in early 2014, Tomak pointed out that Eastern Ukraine is by no means a safe place for pro-Ukrainian activists to be even today.
“I don’t want to take a risk and go to the occupied areas…I prefer to visit now the [Ukrainian] government-controlled areas, which are not great either,” Tomak said. “There are human rights violations from the Ukrainian side as well.”
Kudelia also pointed out that it is likely that, unlike in Crimea, the majority of citizens in Eastern Ukraine did not support secession from Ukraine in favor of Russian control.
“In Eastern Ukraine, the majority of people were not pro-separatists,” Kudelia said.
The most important takeaway from the film, however, was the fact that the battle in Ukraine is veiled in various shades of gray, where there are not simply ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fighting one another.
“Unfortunately, we have the problem now of impunity in Eastern Ukraine, even in the government-controlled areas,” Tomak said. “[Ukrainian officials] don’t want to punish the Ukrainian battalion members because they are powerful, and they don’t want to punish those who committed crimes as separatists because Putin could have control of the area tomorrow. Law enforcement…did not want to take the risk of arresting someone who may gain power tomorrow.”
Despite the difficulties the people of Eastern Ukraine currently face, Tomak points out that it will come down to how the people of Eastern Ukraine observe and understand the unfolding situation to decide whether or not Ukraine will recover in the future.
“The key to the problem comes down to psychology,” Tomak said.