Friday’s winter snowstorm did not keep a crowd from gathering on the Green to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, which is currently battling a full-scale Russian invasion.
Roughly 150 Dartmouth students, faculty and Hanover community members — some holding posters with pro-Ukraine messages — gathered to listen to Ukrainian students and professors discuss the conflict and the importance of supporting Ukrainians both domestically and abroad. Many joined in a series of chants, including “Hands off Ukraine,” “Cut Russia from SWIFT [international finance system],” “Block the sky,” “Stand with Ukraine” and “Stop Putin.”
The protest began with statements from Ukrainian student Nathan Syvash ’25 and a playing of the Ukrainian national anthem.
“We’d like to start our rally with an anthem to honor every Ukrainian fighting in this exact moment,” Syvash said. “If Russia stops fighting right now, there will be no more war. If Ukraine stops fighting right now, there will be no more Ukraine. This is not a conflict — this is a century-long erasure and a genocide.”
The assault on Ukraine by Russian missiles, tanks, armored vehicles, planes, ships and around 150,000 troops has in just three days already caused hundreds of military and civilian deaths, thousands of injuries and more than 150,000 refugees to flee the country. It also followed weeks of escalating tensions, with an estimated 190,000 Russian military personnel stationed in and around Ukraine as of last week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared his intent to conduct a “special military operation” in the former Soviet republic early Thursday morning Moscow time. Shortly after, Ukrainian officials reported explosions in Kharkiv and the capital, Kyiv, while Russian troops landed in the Black Sea port of Odessa and invaded Ukraine from north, east and south. As of Saturday, Ukrainian forces are, according to Western intelligence, putting up stiffer resistance than Russia expected, with invading armies stalled outside the major cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson.
Russian department chair Victoria Somoff, who told The Dartmouth in early February that she is from a part of the country occupied by Russia since before the invasion, underscored the gravity of the situation in Ukraine.
“I am a teacher and a scholar of literature — I love complexities, a good argument and footnotes,” Somoff said. “But there is no time for any of these things now — my country, Ukraine, a sovereign nation, is being attacked.”
Somoff pleaded with the audience to support Ukraine, financially and spiritually.
“If you are religious, please pray for my beautiful and courageous country,” Somoff said. “If you can donate money to the Ukrainian army and for the treatment of Ukrainian soldiers, please ask us for the list of reliable organizations that are assisting Ukraine.”
Marta Hulievska ’25, a Ukrainian student, echoed Somoff’s statements, emphasizing the importance of supporting Ukraine at this time.
“Supporting Russia or remaining neutral means supporting war crimes, human rights abuse and centuries of colonialism and imperialism towards the Ukrainian people” Hulivska said. “Supporting Ukraine means standing up for democracy, freedom and peace — something we are doing right now [in this protest].”
This week’s crisis is a culmination of a long history of diplomatic tensions between NATO and Russia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many previously Eastern Bloc countries — such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Poland — joined NATO, a trans-Atlantic defense alliance, over Russian objections in an attempt to gain protection from potential Russian aggression and further integrate themselves with the West. Ukraine’s potential NATO membership is seen by the Russian government as a threat; NATO rejects any Russian “veto” over its membership.
Large-scale protests removed a Russian-aligned government in Kyiv in 2014, installing one that favored greater integration with Europe. In response, Putin quickly ordered the invasion and annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian region, and then backed a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine that has led to over 14,000 deaths.
In December 2021, Putin issued a list of demands — including that NATO refrain from offering Ukraine membership and eliminate all activities in Eastern Europe, including in its member states there. NATO member nations swiftly declared the requests unacceptable.
The U.S., European Union and allied countries have responded to this week’s attack with further sanctions against Russia, oligarchs and even Putin himself. Germany canceled the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have delivered Russian natural gas directly via the Baltic Sea, and NATO has deployed additional troops into its Eastern European member states. On Saturday evening, the U.S. and E.U. agreed to bar some Russian entities from SWIFT, an electronic payment system, and implement further restrictions on Russia’s central bank. The U.S. and several European countries have also ramped up weapons shipments to Ukraine.
In an interview after the protest, Somoff said that it is crucial to understand the crisis not as a conflict, but as an act of Russian aggression. She emphasized the importance of supporting Ukrainian students on campus.
“For them, this news is so personal and devastating,” Somoff said. “Some of them might not be able to go home — there is a large student body that can reach out, support them and ask what they need.”
Yevheniia Dubrova ’24, a Ukrainian student and member of the Ukrainian Student Association, said that her family is still in Ukraine. She explained that while the war has raged for many years, this week’s events are particularly worrying.
“My parents and I know what war is — we have for eight years — but what is going on right now is next level,” Dubrova said. “My little sister is hiding in a bomb shelter as we speak right now.”
She added that the Ukrainian Student Association organized the protest to raise awareness within the Dartmouth community. According to Dubrova, the Ukrainian Students Association supports Ukrainian students on campus, serving as a place for students to learn more about Ukraine and the conflict taking place in eastern Europe.
“We wanted to tell everyone that they should care, there are violations of human rights in Ukraine, that this concerns everyone,” Dubrova said. “We also wanted to spread resources for every student, faculty member and members of the Hanover community to tell them how they can support Ukraine, even from here.”