Members of the Livingston County Democratic Party met with Eugene Bondarenko– a professor of Ukrainian and Russian language at the University of Michigan– to discuss the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Bondarenko, who specializes in modern Ukrainian policy and language politics, explained that a great deal has changed over the past year as “the architecture of the post-World War II security agreements that governed Europe and much of the rest of the world were severely challenged.”
Indeed, the war in Ukraine has led to the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Bondarenko cited recent estimates of casualties, adding that civilian casualties are currently undercounted due to uncertainties in the occupied territories. Additionally, Bondarenko explained that in military terms, casualties encapsulate all those who are unable to move on, be it from death or injury. Between a damaged industrial base and a scattered civilian population, Ukraine has suffered greatly over the past year.
In short, Bondarenko explained, “Ukraine is trying to stifle the Russian offensive by fighting a war of attrition.” Around the city of Bakhmut, for example, the British government estimates that every hundred yards of Russian progress costs about 2,000 Russian lives. Considering the Russian government had expected to take the capital city of Kyiv within three days, this is an unanticipated level of loss.
Despite this, Bondarenko says he doesn’t see Vladimir Putin or the Russian government stepping away from Ukraine any time soon. An estimated 80% of Russian civilians are in support of the war.
There’s been a significant amount of speculation as to how much the people of Russia know about the war in Ukraine. Bondarenko explained that while Russia has certain internet blockers and safeguards in place, they are by no means infallible, and can often be bypassed by a simple VPN. As a result, Bondarenko asserts that “anyone under 30 who doesn’t know what’s going on is willfully ignorant.” Bondarenko then clarified that this is not necessarily the result of indoctrination or brainwashing, but rather a result of the culture perpetuated by the Kremlin and Putin himself. Since his rise to power in 1999, Putin’s cult of personality has greatly shaped the culture and politics of contemporary Russia.
In March 2022, the International Criminal Court began to investigate the Russian invasion, prompted by 39 countries requesting an investigation into potential war crimes. However, the Hague’s lack of action has prompted a ‘people’s court’ to present evidence of Russian aggression and war crimes. Similarly, the European Union passed a resolution calling on member nations to garner political support within the U.N. and other international forums in order to create a “special tribunal for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.”
One of the main counterarguments against providing aid to Ukraine is the assertion that it’s an unnecessary expenditure. However, as Bondarenko points out, the majority of aid being given to Ukraine is in the form of existing military equipment.
Combatting this type of misinformation is critical. Bondarenko noted that “as Americans, it’s our job to prevent people like Marjorie Taylor Greene and the Trump wing of the Republican Party from bringing the isolationist message, positioning this as a false dichotomy between helping America and helping Ukraine.”
Bondarenko also praised President Biden’s recent trip to Ukraine and Poland, calling it a “strong message to Putin in a statesman’s way.”
The question at the forefront of many American minds pertains to how those on the opposite end of the globe can keep in touch with the events in Ukraine. Reputable news sources based in Ukraine include Hromadske and Television Service of News (TSN).
Also speaking at the event was State Representative Jennifer Conlin. Having recently held a town hall meeting in Hamburg, Conlin reported that she is looking to do more events in her district, including Livingston County.
These first few weeks in office have been a unique transition period not only for Conlin but for Michigan Democrats at the state level. This is the first time in forty years that the state of Michigan has had a Democratic governor as well as a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate.
Conlin also spoke on the shooting at Michigan State University.
“The reason I decided to run was when I had to cover the Oxford school shooting as a reporter for the New York Times,” Conlin said. “And so to be there the morning after a second school shooting was surreal. But this time, I wasn’t going to the press conference, I was going to the Capitol to see how I could affect change on these laws.”
Conlin added that Michigan House Democrats will be introducing three new proposed pieces of gun control legislation to the House of Representatives on Wednesday.