Shifting news in Ukraine highlights importance of IU expertise

Reporting the news in this era of 24/7 media is a challenge. Events often change so quickly that it’s hard for journalists to keep up. The same is true here at the IU News office, where our job includes connecting reporters with faculty experts who can add depth and analysis to their stories.

Case in point: Ukraine. We distributed media tip sheets Tuesday and Wednesday featuring Indiana University experts commenting on topics ranging from the nature of the Maidan protests to language issues to the influence of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And there’s more to come.

Map of Ukraine

United Nations Cartographic Section via Wikimedia Commons

IU faculty members were quoted in stories about the cultural importance of Crimea to Ukraine and Russia and the role of women in the Ukraine protests. The Bloomington Herald-Times interviewed an IU professor and an alumnus and graduate student about the conflict. Lee Feinstein, dean of the School of Global and International Studies, wrote about the situation for The National Interest.

The story started in November when protesters rallied against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a trade deal with the European Union and instead seek economic help from Russia. The protests grew and eventually led to violence. Events took a dramatic turn last weekend when Yanukovych fled Kiev, the capital, and parliament voted to remove him from office.

Robert Kravchuk, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs who lived in Ukraine for two years in the 1990s, told me the protests that drove Yanukovcyh from office marked a turning point in modern Ukrainian history. Protesters kept their composure even when blood was shed, he said, a point that wasn’t reached in the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004.

“This is the first time there has been a broad-based movement where Ukrainians stood up for their rights,” he said. “This was really quite meaningful. It wasn’t just a mob out there in the streets.”

Yet the news focus kept shifting this week — to questions about a new government in Ukraine, to Russian military exercises, to clashes in Crimea, a province of Ukraine where Russian influence is particularly strong. Today, Yanukovych insisted in a news conference in Russia that he’s still president and the UN Security Council planned an emergency meeting on the crisis.

It looks as if this story is going to be with us for quite some time. And the expertise of Indiana University scholars and researchers will be more and more relevant.

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