University of Missouri Ukrainian student Vlad Sazhen on Thursday joined most of the world in condemning Russia's annexation of four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, calling it meaningless.
Sazhen spoke in Gateway Residence Hall. His girlfriend, MU Ukrainian student Alina Rohulia, wasn't feeling well.
"I think it's obvious on an international level it means nothing," Sazhen said of the announced annexation.
It's the same as if Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy claimed Moscow as part of Ukraine, he said.
"It's just another pretext for Russia to escalate the situation," Sazhen said.
The referendum vote also was a sham, he said.
"No referendum should be done with weapons," Sazhen said.
Russian soldiers went from house to house with ballots during the referendum vote.
A friend in Russian-occupied Mariupol pretended to be under 18 and told the soldiers the adults weren't home when they came to his house, Sazhen said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has implemented a mobilization of troops to fight in Ukraine, with some reporting that 300,000 soldiers may be recruited.
Sazhen said nothing is limiting Putin to 300,000 soldiers.
The mobilization has resulted in protests in Russia, but Sazhen downplayed the Russian protests as "pitiful" and "embarrassing."
"They don't know how to protest," Sazhen said. "They are slaves and they are too afraid to protest against their czar."
Sazhen praised protests in Dagestan, a Muslim region of Russia that has had the most soldier deaths in the invasion.
"I applaud Dagestan," Sazhen said. "People in Dagestan were protesting very heavily."
Told of the ambassador's remarks, Sazhen said some to the equipment is obsolete. He displayed a video of rusted AK-47s on his phone.
Russia has enough working weapons to continue to kill Ukrainians and damage buildings, though, he said.
"A lot of it works as it should, unfortunately," Sazhen said.
An example is a rocket attack in a civilian area of Dnipro this week that killed at least four people, including members of three generations of one family.
Sazhen's mother, in Kyiv, planned to travel to his and Rohulia's hometown of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine on Saturday.
Rockets are again falling near his grandmother's house in Kharkiv, causing her stress, he said.
"My mother, she misses her very strongly," Sazhen said of the planned quick visit.
While there, she plans to retrieve from their apartment winter clothes they left behind and some of his sister's toys, he said.
Positive news last week was a prisoner swap that resulted in the return of Ukrainian soldiers captured from a steel plant in Mariupol, Sazhen said.
He did better than he expected on last week's exams in thermodynamics and statistics, and Rohulia also did well on her differential equations exam, Sazhen said.
Roger McKinney is the education reporter for the Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com or 573-815-1719. He's on Twitter at @rmckinney9.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: MU Ukrainian student dismisses Russian annexation of territory