Local expert weighs in on tensions in Ukraine - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Local expert weighs in on tensions in Ukraine

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With all eyes on the situation in Ukraine, a local expert is addressing what conflict in that region could mean for the United States and what needs to happen to avoid a war.

Dr. Michael Slobodchikoff, a political science lecturer at Troy University, says cooler heads need to prevail for Russia and the Ukraine to step away from the brink of conflict. He's an expert on Russian government and foreign policy and is writing his second book on the post Soviet region. Slobodchikoff has been doing interviews with the BBC on the mounting tensions in Ukraine and following the situation closely.

"What needs to occur now is basically elections on whether or not Crimea and Eastern Ukraine will secede from Ukraine. If those elections go where they will not secede, then a new presidential election needs to take place for a new government that can try to unify east and west and that remains to be a very difficult task," he told WSFA during an interview on Troy's campus Tuesday. "Now civil war is a distinct possibility."

Marianna Mykhaylyuk, a Ukrainian citizen who studied at Troy University and now works in Pike County, says it's painful to watch the situation unfold in her country. She would like to see her country stay united.

"I hope personally on the better outcome and the better outcome is when war would not break out and the country of Ukraine would stay as a whole as it has been since Ukraine got independence," she said. "I feel very much concerned about the Ukraine, especially on an emotional level because the rest of my family and my sister are there and it means a lot to me what will happen and what will be the future outcome for the Ukraine and the citizens in the country."

Mykhaylyuk has been keeping in touch with her loved ones via Skype as the standoff continues between Ukrainian forces in Crimea and Russian forces.

Meanwhile, Dr. Slobodchikoff says there needs to be a Democratic ending to the conflict and an election that will grant legitimacy to whatever government is elected. He does not believe sanctions against Russia will be effective and could have a devastating impact on the economies in Western Europe. If Russia is hit financially, Russian president Vladimir Putin says the losses would be mutual and that Russia would retaliate against economic sanctions.

"If conflict occurs there, conflict is likely to spread. There are nuclear weapons that we have to worry about. We also have to worry about just the humanitarian ordeal of what will happen if civil war is there and continues to spread." Slobodchikoff said. "It is in our best interest that that area remains fairly stable. You have lots of oil and gas pipelines which go through the Ukraine which western Europe needs. Frankly, if they're destroyed or if western Europe doesn't get access to that needed energy, then the price for oil and gas will go up and we'll all be affected by that."

The United States plans to make available $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, part of a massive international assistance package.

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