By Klara Woxström
On 27 January, the LSESU Ukrainian Society gathered before the Ukrainian embassy in London in solidarity with Ukrainian sovereignty, which is facing increasing tensions with Russia. They were joined by Ukrainian societies from other London universities as well as supporters from Georgia, who experienced similar aggression from Russia in 2008.
The Ukrainian Society President, Danylo Nikiforov, stated that the highlight of the event was “seeing allies abroad coming together to do the most we can to help bring a change to the current crisis… It’s good to see everybody standing together, particularly during such dire times.”
Russia and Ukraine have seen rising tensions since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, which claimed more than 14,000 lives. Last October, Russia started moving troops and military equipment near the Ukrainian border, raising concerns about a potential invasion. United States intelligence warned of an invasion in light of more than 100,000 troops being stationed at the border in December.
On 17 December, Russia drafted a list of eight demands for NATO. This included troop reductions by NATO in Eastern Europe as well as the promise that NATO membership will not be extended to Eastern European states not already part of the organisation. The United States and Russia have engaged in several high-level talks and amidst discussions with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, Biden has affirmed they will take decisive action in case of an invasion.
The Ukrainian Society aims to raise awareness about “the importance of critically assessing the information we consume from the media”. The society held an event on 7 February with journalists from the independent Ukrainian media outlet Kyiv Independent to examine the impact of Western media coverage on the crisis narrative.
Nikiforov also expressed how the recent political developments have “arguably had more impact on [him] than prior Russian aggression” since staying in the UK has limited his access to information and his ability to assess the situation. As a student he feels it is “immensely stressful [hearing about] the likelihood of another state invading your home…you get caught in the surreal sense that your day-to-day challenges like academic workload or search for internships are simply irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.’’
‘‘Many students experience pressure on their mental health and constant background anxiety when thinking about families being left home and hearing how they have to prepare in case of a full-scale war.’’
He added, “By staying resilient and showing unity, we fight disinformation on the battlefront of public opinion in the age of mass media.” He therefore urges the rest of the LSE community to “be responsible for the information you spread online…as the narratives shape the current perception of the crisis, where real people are involved and lose their lives every day.”