Rights in Russia interview – with Andreas Umland, political scientist and expert on the recent histories of Ukraine and Russia

This month Mary talks with Andreas Umland, a German political scientist who lives in Kyiv and studies recent Russian and Ukrainian history and regime transitions. Andreas is an analyst at the Stockholm Centre for Eastern European Studies at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. He has published research on the post-Soviet extreme right, European fascism, post-communist higher education, East European geopolitics, Ukrainian and Russian nationalism, the Donbas and Crimea conflicts, and the political framework for continuing integration of southern and eastern countries into the EU. 

Andreas teaches as an Associate Professor of Politics at the National University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In 2005–2014, he was involved in the creation of a Master’s programme in German and European Studies administered jointly by the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and Jena University. 

This interview was recorded on 30 April 2024

Mary’s questions

  • A lot has happened since we last spoke in March 2022. Looking back, I think there was a widespread feeling that Russia might secure a quick victory; and later on, on the contrary, that Ukraine would continue to have rapid successes. And what we have now is a kind of military stalemate – although most recently there have been reports of Russian advances. Is that a fair description of the past two years and of where we are at present? How significant are those Russian advances?
  •  How would you describe the mood in Kyiv at the present time?
  • A question on sanctions. Earlier, when the sanctions were just put in place, some people thought cutting off Russian gas and oil exports to western Europe would cause financial distress in Russia and be an insurmountable problem for the Putin regime. But it seems to have simply driven Russia toward dependence on China. Do you have any thoughts about that?  
  • Do you think Putin’s ‘re-election’ has any significance as far as the war is concerned? To what extent was it important for Putin to interpret the ‘election’ as support for the war? And what was the significance of the two individuals who became known to the public as potential anti-war candidates before they were disbarred from standing – notably Boris Nadezhdin?
  • How likely do you think it is that the war will end in some kind of compromise reached as a result of negotiations?
  • As you yourself have pointed out in a recent new book, the war began with Russia’s seizure of Crimea. What is life like in Crimea under Russian occupation? And how do you see the situation on the peninsula at the moment?
  • Historically, there have been many close personal relationships between Ukrainians and Russians. To what extent do such relationships still exist? How difficult is communication now between individuals living in Ukraine and Russia? 
  • To what extent have the EU and the US been reliable partners for Ukraine? In particular I have in mind the six-month US delay in voting additional support for Ukraine, which only happened at the end of last week.
  • Looking  back, could the West have done things to prevent the war and did we miss any opportunity for a peace agreement early on?
  • How do you see the war developing over the next few months – and in particular how significant do you think the upcoming US elections will be for the conflict?