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Ukraine a Complex Situation for Politicians to Resolve and for Journalists to Cover

Released: 25-Feb-2014 12:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Indiana University
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A journalism professor who has visited Ukraine while researching sociocultural development and mass media across Eastern Europe said the story of what is happening there defies simplification.

"It's not simply a country divided between East and West," said Owen Johnson, an associate professor of journalism and former director of the Russian and East European Institute at IU. "It's not about Russian speakers versus Ukrainian speakers. It's not just European values versus Russian or post-Soviet ones. It's not just corrupt business and political practices against transparent practices. It's all of these.

"Some of the inhabitants of the Crimea and the eastern provinces have talked about wanting to become part of Russia, but Russia has generally opposed secession in other countries, so it's not likely to happen here," Johnson added. "Russia's bad economic situation greatly reduces the likelihood of an invasion.

"Even the politics is not so simple. President Viktor Yanukovych was backed by the Party of the Regions and a group of powerful oligarchs. Those who oppose him represent a broad range of political factions from right to left. They have limited common ground. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was freed from prison late last week, has by most accounts a long record of political and business corruption.

"All of these problems make it difficult for leaders both in Ukraine and outside of it to find a solution for Ukraine. The hardest part is to decide what Ukraine is supposed to be and what it represents," Johnson said.

Johnson noted that foreign correspondents, most of whom have little or no experience in Ukraine, have been parachuting into the country and trying to find a story line. Each has found part of the story. Some have gotten beyond Kiev and have begun to understand the complexity of the situation.

"News organizations need to stay with it because how it comes out will have a great deal to say about the future of the European continent generally and of its security specifically," he said.

Johnson can be reached at 812-855-0506 or johnsono@indiana.edu. He is a historian who focuses his research on the sociocultural roles and functions of journalism in Central and East European societies. For additional assistance, contact George Vlahakis at 812-855-0846 or vlahakis@iu.edu.

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