Iryna Farion, a self-styled ultra-nationalist Ukrainian-language professor at Lviv Polytechnic National University, has been fired from her job following remarks questioning the patriotism of Russian-speaking members of Ukraine’s military and posting a private e-mail from a student in occupied Crimea that outed his pro-Ukrainian views and led to his arrest.  

Students from Lviv Polytechnic, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, and Kyiv National University of Technology and Design came out to protest Farion on Wednesday, The New Voice of Ukraine reported.

Farion has been teaching at Lviv Polytechnic for 30 years and said she would appeal the university’s decision in court.

Also on Wednesday, the Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU, said that it was investigating her recent statements.

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Farion was defiant however: “Everything is just beginning, because every finish is essentially a start. I am preparing a lawsuit,” reads her Telegram announcement, which is accompanied by her dismissal letter.

The place of the Russian language in Ukraine can sometimes be a divisive one. Most Ukrainians are bilingual but many use Russian as their first language. Under Soviet and Russian rule, the Russian language was prioritized and the Ukrainian language repressed.

Despite being an ultra-nationalist calling for the total abolishment of the Russian language in the country, evidence of exemplary service as a communist in the past – including the promotion of the Russian language to foreigners – has since surfaced, leading many to doubt the intentions behind Farion’s nationalist remarks.

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“In my opinion, this person has been working purposefully and systematically for a long time to divide society and incite enmity between Ukrainians,” Ukrainian MP Yehor Cherniev wrote. “Such activity is especially suspicious for me in the context of Iryna Farion's Soviet past.”

But Maksym Hlebov, a pro-Ukrainian student studying in occupied Sevastopol venerated Farion, thanking her for her work and telling her that she was a “ray of light in the darkness of the occupation” and that he was certain that Ukraine and its language would prevail.

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Farion then posted a screenshot on Nov. 8 of Hlebov’s private e-mail on her Telegram, bringing the student to the attention of Russian authorities.

Hlebov was arrested and made to post a video on Telegram making an apology.

“I am fully aware of my guilt. An intelligent conversation was held with me, and I completely renounce my views, because I understand that I was wrong and it was completely absolutely wrong,” he says in a video that appeared Monday on the Telegram channel Crimean SMERSH – a network of informants seeking to expose pro-Ukrainians in Crimea.

Ukraine’s Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets said that the Russian Interior Ministry’s “Center for Combating Extremism” is now “dealing with” the young man.

Farion has also made controversial remarks about the Ukrainian military,

questioning the patriotism of Ukrainian soldiers who speak Russian and pointing her remarks in particular at the Azov Brigade, which defended Mariupol against Russia in a defiant last stand.

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“I cannot call them Ukrainians. If they don't speak Ukrainian, let them call themselves ‘Russians.’ Why are they so crazy? If they are such great patriots, show your patriotism,” Farion said.

In answer, Ukrainian boxing champion and Russian speaker Oleksandr Usyk wrote a poem mocking Farion’s statement and communist past.

A Lviv Polytechnic student at the protest against Farion, who said that they had classes with her, told New Voice that it was impossible to stay silent when a professor “says such disgusting things.”

“My father is a soldier and I worry about him all the time,” the student said.

Military personnel, including former Azov commander Maksym Zhorin also sharply responded to Farion’s statements.

“No one gave you the right to open your mouth towards Azov, the Third Assault or any other unit of the Ukrainian army. So just go f**k yourself!” Zhorin wrote on Telegram.

Zhorin publicly called on Ukrainian police to investigate Farion, saying that she, “splits Ukrainian society according to FSB (Russia’s successor to the KGB) methods.”

In response, Farion called for Ukrainian leadership to punish those who “[tarnish] the honor of the Ukrainian officer.”

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