University representatives expressed solidarity with the people of Ukraine amidst Russia’s ongoing military invasion.
On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Armed Forces to invade Ukraine via its borders with Belarus and Russia. The invasion is the culmination of escalating Russian aggression in the region since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The University of Sydney’s Department of Government and International Relations released a statement in response to the conflict.
“In this dark hour, we are sending a message of solidarity to our Ukrainian students and colleagues, their families and friends, and the people of Ukraine. This is an act of naked aggression by the government of the Russian Federation, and as such, a grave breach of international law and Ukrainian sovereignty. As a Department, we stand for humanity and peace, which we hope will prevail in Ukraine.”
As of 27 February after three days of conflict, there have been 198 known Ukrainian deaths, with a further 1115 injured.
President of USyd’s Students’ Representative Council, Lauren Lancaster, released the following statement.
“The SRC stands in solidarity with Ukrainian students, staff and the ordinary people of Ukraine. We abhor imperialist conflict in any instance, as with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ordinary citizens should not suffer, or become refugees due to the warmongering of their governments,” said Lancaster.
“We regret the role of the US in escalating aggression and believe the geopolitical vying for power between blocs places peace and humanity at risk. We also note the pernicious Eurocentrism with which the mainstream Australian media dictates moral quantum for victims of war.
“As such, the SRC also condemns ongoing Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, US airstrikes in Somalia and Israeli airstrikes in Damascus. We hope peace will prevail above all else.”
The Russian government believes Ukraine’s integration into the NATO defence alliance will threaten their national security. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected with 73 per cent of the two-candidate vote in 2019, is an advocate for Ukraine’s integration into the EU and NATO. Putin has unsuccessfully sought assurances from NATO that it will not admit Ukraine into its alliance to no avail.
Meanwhile, the Russian Government justified the invasion by crafting a false narrative of Ukrainian provocation. Putin has blamed Ukrainian forces for non-existent attacks and claimed, with no evidence, that Ukraine intends to develop nuclear weapons. Putin also claims his goal is to cleanse Ukraine – a democratic nation led by a Jewish President – of ‘Nazis’.
Australia’s Group of Eight (Go8) universities published a media release expressing concern for Ukrainian and Russian students. Chief Executive Vicki Thomson provided the following statement.
“As tensions in the region build, our universities are mindful of the increasing pressure this will place on our Ukrainian and Russian students both here in Australia and studying offshore. We are extremely concerned for their welfare.
“Our universities are offering access to peer support advisors, counselling services for domestic students, and establishing ‘chat’ channels for international students currently studying offshore. We will monitor the situation closely and offer additional support as the situation evolves.”
According to the media release, there were 14 students from Ukraine and 169 from Russia enrolled in Go8 universities in 2021.
As Russian troops hasten their advance, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flee West into Europe. Around the globe, anti-war protests call for an end to the ongoing conflict.