POLINA BILINSKY MYCAK | NEWS
On the 24th of February, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a full-fledged “special military operation”, in effect declaring war on Ukraine, invading Ukrainian territory and inflicting violence and brute force upon the Ukrainian population. Putin warned other countries which make any attempt to interfere with the Russian invasion would experience “consequences they have never seen ”, according to a Reuters translation of his speech. Russian troops were in combat-ready position the day before, having amassed along the Ukrainian border for several weeks. According to Sky News, Russia assembled “up to 190,000 forces personnel, including ground, sea and air, around Ukraine, armed with fast jets, artillery, warships and tanks.”
As American President Joe Biden said, “The people of Ukraine…suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces. President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”
The political friction that has ignited this most recent invasion has been ongoing for eight years and the historic tension between Ukraine and Russia has spanned over three centuries. Many do not know that Russia already invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea, and occupying the Donbas region in the largest land grab in Europe since WWII. Like today, the 2014 invasion of Ukraine involved Russian troops, Russian soldiers, and Russian weapons. Brave Ukrainian men and women have been fighting this war for eight years. Some 1,584,000 people from Crimea and Donbas are now internally displaced persons after being forced to leave their home (as per UNHCR Ukraine). Under Russian military occupation, Ukrainians in Crimea live in fear: they are forced to assume Russian passports or lose their property, jobs, and healthcare. Those who express opposition to Russian occupation have faced imprisonment and in some instances, torture.
Since the 12th of January 2022, Ukrainian citizens have experienced a wave of terrifying false reports alleging that explosives had been planted in more than 600 places around the country. More than 70 Ukrainian government sites were cyber attacked, causing disruptions in Ukraine’s operations. Russia’s hybrid tools of aggression against Ukraine include cyber attacks, terror, and intimidation of Ukrainian citizens, trade, and economic pressure, the spread of propaganda based on falsifications, negatively portraying Ukraine as a “failed state”, and continued military aggression with no official declaration of war or acknowledgment of the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, despite irrefutable evidence.
As of today, Russia continues to illegally occupy 7.2% of the territory of Ukraine, as stated by the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ukraine” in 2019. In 1994, Ukraine relinquished its nuclear weapons in exchange for a guarantee of sovereignty and territorial integrity from Russia, Britain, and the United States through the “Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances”. Resorting to military aggression against Ukraine, Russia has and continues to violate fundamental norms and principles of international law, enshrined not only in the Budapest Memorandum but also in the UN Charter (1945), Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States (1981) and many others. Russia has also violated a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements, such as: Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation (1997) and Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the status and conditions of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine (1999).
Putin does not consider Ukraine to be an independent nation with its own unique culture, language, and identity. To try and justify his imperial ambitions, Putin uses disinformation, along with erasure of ethinic identity, cultural appropriation, and the falsification of history to systematically spread propaganda. We see an example of this in his recent televised speech in which Putin states that “...Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia.” This is entirely false. In fact, the ancient Ukrainian kingdom of Kievan-Rus from which modern Ukraine originates, predates Russia. History proves that this is not the first time Ukraine has been subjected to such propaganda. The Holodomor, a human-made famine orchestrated by the Stalinist regime killed 7-10 million innocent Ukrainians through starvation – the Putin regime still denies that the Holodomor was an act of genocide against Ukrainians. In recent times, the Kremlin has been working hard to disrupt Ukraine’s efforts towards European integration, including joining the EU and NATO. Putin sees Ukraine’s democracy and its orientation towards Europe as a threat to his power and is willing to destroy and occupy Ukraine. Through the wars with Georgia and Ukraine, Putin’s strategy is starting to unfold – to recapture key areas that were once held by the Soviet Union and gain back the prestige and global influence that the Russian Empire once held.
Over these last weeks, I have heard many individuals say “Why should I care? I live far from there, it’s not my problem.” One should understand that this war will not only affect Ukraine but the whole world.
So why should you care about this war?
Putin aims to maximise his power by destabilising the rest of the world. In addition to imperialistic annexation and occupation, Russia’s government engages in more innovative hybrid warfare, not only in Ukraine. In a study conducted by the University of Washington, Cunningham found that Russian-attributed cyber actions have occurred in 85 countries spanning a total of 6 continents.
Ukraine has a huge agricultural industry which can meet the food needs of millions. Should this war continue, imported foods will be delayed, petrol prices will rise and there will be a shortage of various grains which will increase the price of food commodities. Already share markets around the world have been negatively impacted.
History does not need to repeat itself. The USSR failed many years ago and the world has not forgotten the brutality of this regime, as millions are still affected by generational trauma. Our world does not need another Soviet Union.
Putin is a threat to democracy. He is trying to topple a democratically elected government in Ukraine. If he succeeds, this will set a dangerous international precedent.
Putin is a threat to world peace. Every person has the right to live safely in their own country and associated countries should not be subjected to an ultimatum like Putin’s threat of “consequences greater than any you have faced in history”.
Putin predicted a swift and strong takeover but Russian forces have been met with the greatest defensive resistance of our generation. Ukrainians soldiers and civilians continue to fight for democracy, independence, and Ukraine.
The world will change from this event. It is historic and it is up to us to determine how it ends.