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Ukrainian ribbons vandalized on UConn campus ahead of anniversary of Russian invasion


Days before the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, several UConn students were shocked to find that Ukrainian ribbons on the university’s campus had been vandalized with a symbol promoting pro-war propaganda.

“That was very shocking and crazy to see,” said Kate Koval, president of the Ukrainian Student Association.

Beginning last Monday and continuing throughout the week, Koval said she and her fellow students began finding Ukrainian ribbons placed on numerous trees and lamp posts at the UConn campus that were defaced with the “Z” or “ZOV” symbol, which has been linked to those who are pro-war.

“The first time I saw it I did not believe that was what I actually saw,” Koval said.

Koval said she and other club members with the Ukrainian Student Association found it particularly disturbing given that UConn in the two years since the invasion has “always been supportive” of the ribbons being hung on trees and light fixtures around campus.

“This is the first time something like this has happened,” Koval said.

She said club members put the ribbons up to make the campus feel more welcoming for students of Ukrainian descent during what had been a very difficult time and to raise awareness about the war.

“Most people forget that this is still happening,” Koval said.

Upon finding the vandalized ribbons, members of the Ukrainian club took photos, cut down the defaced ribbons and completed a bias reporting form with the university. Members also met with the Dean of Students, Koval said.

“The University strives to create a community of inclusivity and respect, and condemns all acts of bias,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in a statement. “UConn was made aware of the incident on Monday, and recorded it as part of its bias incident response protocol.

“The Dean of Students Office has been meeting with members of the Ukrainian Student Organization, and extends that support to any other community members who wish to talk with us about this or other concerns,” Reitz continued.

Koval said she isn’t sure if the vandalism was meant to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the invasion on Saturday, but she believes it’s likely based on the fact most people out of touch with the war would not know how disturbing Ukrainians find the “Z” symbol.

“I feel like not many people know what that means,” Koval said.

Koval said club members plan on replacing all the ribbons that were defaced to continue to spread awareness and support for the people of Ukraine. The vandalism has made her “scared” to see what could potentially happen Saturday on the date of the second anniversary.

“I just want it to end so me and my club members can celebrate our culture and spread awareness again without being afraid that any of our events will be damaged,” Koval said.

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